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Full text of "Children of illegitimate birth and measures for their protection"

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U. S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR 

JAMES J DAVIS. Secretary 

CHILDREN'S BUREAU 

GRACE ABBOTT. Chief 



CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 

and 

MEASURES FOR THEIR PROTECTION 

By 

EMMA O. LUNDBERG 



^ 



Bureau Publication No. 1 66 




.0 



t) 



WASHINGTON 

GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 

1926 



SINGLE COPIES OF THIS PUBLICATION MAY BE 
OBTAINED FREE UPON APPLICATION TO THE 
children's bureau. ADDITIONAL COPIES MAY 
BE PROCURED FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT OF 
DOCUMENTS, GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE. 
WASHINGTON, D. C. 
AT 

r. CENTS PER COPY 



CONTENTS 



PapTG 

Other publications of the Childreirs Bureau relating to illegitimacy iv 

What illegitimate birth means to the child 1 

The prevalence of birth out of wedlock 2 

The high infant mortality rate and its causes 7 

Illegitimacy as a dependency problem 10 

The factors in the problem in relation to preventive social measures 12 

Constructive legislation 16 

III 



OTHER PUBLICATIONS OF THE CHILDREN'S BUREAU RELATING 

TO ILLEGITIMACY 

Adoption Laws in the United States; a summary of the development of adop- 
tion legislation and significant features of adoption statutes, with the text 
of selected laws, by Emelvn Foster Peck. Publication No. 148, 153 pp. 1925. 

Illegitimacy as a Child-Welfare Problem: Part 1— A Brief Treatment of the 
Prevalence and Sis>nificance of Birth out of Wedlock, the Child's Status, and 
the State's Responsibility for Care and Protection (with bibliographical 
material), by Emma O. Lundberg and Katharine F. Lenroot. Publication 
No. 66. 405 pp. 1921. ^ , ., .. ^ • . , 

Illegitimacy as a Child- Welfare Problem: Part 2— A Study of the Original 
Records "in the City of Boston and in the State of Massachusetts, by Emma 
O Lundberg and Kathaiine F. Lenroot. Publication No. 75. 408 pp. 1921. 

Illegitimacy as a Child-Welfare Problem : Part 3— Methods of Care in Selected 
Urban and Rural Communities. Publication No. 128. 260 pp. 1924. 

Illegitimacy Laws of the United States and Certain Foreign Countries, by 
Ernst Freund. 260 pp. 1919. (Exhausted ; available in libraries;.) 

Illegitimacy Laws of the United States; analysis and index. Excerpt from 
Publication No. 42. 98 pp. 1919. (Obtainable only from the Children's 

Bureau.) , , „r ■^- ^ ^ 

Minimum Standards for Child Welfare Adopted by the Washington and 

Regional Conferences on Child Welfare, 1919. Publication No. 62. 15 pp. 

19^0 

Norwegian Laws Concerning Illegitimate Children; introduction and transla- 
tion by Leifur Magnusson. Publication No. 31, 37 pp. 1918. 

Standards of Child Welfare; a report of the Children's Bureau Conferepces, 
May and June, 1919. Publication No. 60. 459 pp. 1919. 

Separate No 1 The Economic and Social Basis for Child- Welfare Standards. 

Separate No. 4. Children in Need of Special Care and Standardization of 
Child-Welfare Laws. . „r ^, , . * 

Standards of Legal Protection for Children Born out of Wedlock; a report of 
regional conferences held under the auspices of the U. S. Children's Bureau 
and the Inter-City Conference on Illegitimacy. Publication No. 77. 158 pp. 

1921 
A Study of Maternity Homes in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Publication No. 

— . — PP- 1926. " (In press.) « . ^ i. 

The Welfare of Infants of Illegitimate Birth in Baltimore as affected by a 
Maryland law of 1916 governing the separation from their mothers of chil- 
dren under 6 months old, by Rena Rosenberg and A. Madorah Donahue. 
Publication No. 144. 24 pp. 1925. 

IV 



CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH AND MEASURES FOR 
THEIR PROTECTION 



WHAT ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH MEANS TO THE CHILD 

" The fundamental rights of childhood," in the words of a reso- 
lution adopted by the child-welfare conferences held under the 
auspices of the United States Children's Bureau, " are normal home 
life, opportunities for education, recreation, vocational preparation 
for life, and moral, religious, and physical development in harmony 
with American ideals * * *." ^ For centuries the child born out 
of wedlock has been deprived of these rights, and particularly of 
that most basic of all rights — normal home life, with all that home 
imi3lies of parental care and affection. Though guiltless themselves, 
such children have been made to suffer for the sins of their parents 
and for those social conditions which foster misconduct. 

A letter to his mother from a 14:-year-old boy, who from infancy 
had been a ward of a public child-caring agency, expresses the 
instinctive yearning of every child for a father and mother and 
kin of his own, a birthright of which this child, born out of wedlock, 
liad been deprived : 

Dear mother, I was very glad to hear from you. I was so surprised to 
hear from my mother I didn't know what to do. I didn't know I had a 
motlier. Have I a father, sisters or brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins? I am 
well. I am almost 14. How old are youV I hope you are well the same as 
me. Write to me and tell me more about you — ^what you are doing. From 
your son. 

A study of the histories of these children who have been deprived 
of their birthright indicates the mental suffering that may be more 
important to-- consider than any actual " stigma " that might pertain 
to illegitimate birth. In early infancy John was abandoned by his 
mother and taken under care by a public agency. He was boarded 
m family homes until he was 14 years of age. Then, for some mis- 
demeanor, he was sent to an industrial school. At the age of 17 
years he wrote to the superintendent of the State agency : 

I would like to know where I was born and how old I was when I was put 
on the State, and what for did my father and mother die or what was the 
matter. Have I any brothers or sisters in the world or any friends? I am 17 
years old the 25th of this month, just the rite age to learn a trade. Please write 
and tell me how things are as soon as possible please. 
Your friend, 

John. 

1 jMinimum Standards for Child Welfare, Adopted bv the WashiDsrtoii and Redonal Con- 
ferences on Child Welfare, 1919, p. 11. U. S. Children's Bureau Publication No. 62. 
Washington, 1920. 



2 CHILDREN OP ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 

This letter gives a very real picture of the condition of many a 
child born out of wedlock — " nobody's child," but with an instinctive 
longing to know whence he sprang and what place he would rightly 
hold in the community. In ignorance of the conditions of his birth 
and the circumstances that made him a public ward, he comes to 
the natural conclusion that his parents must have died, thus leaving 
him dependent, and hopes to get in touch with brothers or sisters or 
" any friends." To him these things are necessary to settling dowm to 
learn a trade. Does not this boy tell us the first and most important 
article of a square deal — the right of every child to have a father and 
mother, relatives and friends, a home of his own, and a definite place 
in the community? 

Fortunately conditions in our country are such that many of the 
children who begin life with the handicap of birth out of Avedlock 
are received into normal family groups and suffer little if any 
unfortunate results from their birth status. The children who con- 
cern us are those who suffer as a result of the conditions under which 
they are brought into the world — those who die in infancy because 
of lack of proper maternal care, those who become dependent upon 
the public for support, those who are neglected, and those whose 
circumstances of life contribute to make them delinquent. 

THE PREVALENCE OF BIRTH OUT OF WEDLOCK 

ILLEGITIMACY RATES IN THE UNITED STATES AND IN EUROPE 

In most European countries birth registration, because of its im- 
portance in connection with military service and other governmental 
requirements, has been very nearly complete. Statistics of illegiti- 
mate births have been the subject of exhaustive research by students 
of social problems and by statistical bodies and are therefore readily 
available for comparative study. 

It is very difficult in the United States to obtain adequate data on 
the prevalence of birth out of wedlock, even in the States included 
in the birth-registration area, which comprise about three-fourths of 
the total estimated population. The proportion of unregistered 
illegitimate births is undoubtedly greater than the iD*-oportion of 
unregistered legitimate births. The entry of incorrect information on 
the birth certificate further invalidates the figures, and the failure of 
many States and cities to compile separate statistics for illegitimate 
births reduces still more the amount of information available. The 
data that can be obtained indicate a problem not so great in extent as 
in most European countries but of sufficient proportions to demand 
serious attention and study. The number and rate of illegitimate 
live births per 1,000 total live births in the United States and in 
specified countries of Europe are given in Table 1: 



CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 3 

Table 1. — Bleffitimate live births per 1,000 total live births in the Umted States 
and in specified countries of Europe, 19lJt-1923^ 



Country 



United States birth-registration area '. 

Austria 

Belgium 

Czechoslovakia 

Denmark ' 

Finland 

Germany 

Bavaria 

Prussia 

Saxon y 

Wurttemberg 

Great Britain and Ireland 

England and Wales 

Ireland (North) ___. 

Irish Free State 

Scotland 

Hungary 

Italy 

Luxemburg 

Norway '". 



37, 823 

■> 29, 660 

8,714 

37, 638 

8,055 

7,197 

133, 670 

22, 012 

71, 844 

8 15, 625 

4,639 

41, 967 

31, 522 

1,344 

1,624 

7,477 

8 18, 151 

49, 272 

228 

4,301 

Rumania 1 8 62,301 



Illegitimate live 
births, 1923 



Number 



Rate 
per 1,000 
total hve 

births 



23.3 
i 209. 1 

56.0 

99.7 
107.6 

87.8 
103.0 
127.3 

90.6 
8 158. 8 

90.4 



Rate of illegitimate 
live births per 
1,000 total live 
births 



Annual 
average, 
1914-1918 



Spain , 

Sweden 

Switzerland 

The Netherlands. 



8 38, 225 
15, 851 
2,760 
3,447 



41.6 

44.7 

26.3 

66.8 

8 72.8 

44.5 

41.7 

68.6 

« 101. 5 

S58.3 

140.4 

36.5 

18.6 



(') 

245.9 

(») 

(«) 

115.4 
81.0 

109.8 

140.5 
99.4 

154.1 
97.9 

(•) 
49.8 
45.5 

(') 
73.0 
97.4 
45.7 
58.4 
70.1 

(") 
52.3 

150.9 
46.9 
22.0 



Annual 
average, 
1919-1923 . 



23.2 

* 221. 8 

63.6 

(«) 

108.6 

85.8 

107.6 

131.6 

98.4 

8 143. 4 

96.6 

(») 

47.3 

44.2 

72.1 

8 76.6 

46.1 

49.9 

70.8 

8 97.7 

8 60.7 

145.1 

40.5 

20.2 



' For European rates covering the period 1906 to 1914, see Illegitimacy as a Child- Welfare Problem, 
Part 1, p. 13 (U. S. Children's Bureau Publication No. 66, Washington, 1920). Except as otherwise noted, 
figures are based on statistics of live births reported in Annuaire International de Statistique. II. Mouve- 
ment de la Population (Europe), L' Office Permanent de I'Institut International de Statistique, La Haye, 
1917, pp. 40 to 53; and Apergu de la Demographie des Divers Pays du Monde. II. Mouvement de la 
Population, La Haye, 1925, pp. 272-282. In certain countries (Germany, Prussia, Bavaria, Hungary) 
the territory comprised is not the same throughout the period 1914-1923. 

2 Exclusive of California and Massachusetts, for which illegitimacy statistics are not available. Data 
from Birth, Stillbirth, and Infant Mortality Statistics for the Birth-Registration Area of the United States, 
1922, p. 32; 1923, p. 19 (U. S. Bureau of the Census, Washington, 1924 and 1925). 

3 Figures not available prior to 1917. 

* Figures for 1921 and annual average, 1919-1921. 

» Not reported between 1914 and 1918. 

« Reported for 1923 only. 

' Statistisk Aarbog, Danmark, 1919, pp. 16, 17; 1921, pp. 14, 15; 1925, pp. 24, 25. 

8 Figures for 1922 and annual average 1919 to 1922. 

' Figures for Irish Free State available for 1923 only. 

'o Statistisk Arhok for Kongeriket Norge, 44de Argang, 1924, p. 22. Oslo, 1925. Figures for 1923 pro- 
visional, 
n No figures available for 1916, 1917, and 1918. 



The rate for the United States appears to be lower than the rate 
for any European coimtr}' for which figures are available except the 
Netherlands. It is probable, however, that the United States rate 
is more of an understatement than the rates for many European 
countries. (See p. 2.) The European figures are only approxi- 
mately comparable because of differences in methods of registration 
and in legal definitions of illegitimacy. The Netherlands, the Irish 
Free State, Switzerland, England and Wales, Luxemburg, Italy, 
North Ireland, Belgium, and Spain have the lowest rates of the 
European countries, the annual average for 1919-1923, and the rate 



4 GHILDREJM OF li^JLEGITlMATE BIKTH 

for 1923, for all these countries being less than 70 illegitimate births 
per 1,000 live births. Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and 
Rumania have the highest rates — from 97.7 to 221.8 per 1,000. For 
most countries the annual average for 1919-1923 was slightly less 
than the annual average for the preceding five-year period, 1914-1918. 

ILLEGITIMACY RATES IN STATES AND CITIES OF THE UNITED STATES 

In the States for w^hich data can be obtained the number of 
illegitimate live births per 1,000 total live births was 23.3 in 1923. 
If negro births in States having large negro populations are ex- 
cluded the rates for individual States ranged from 6.9 to 38.8. 
Table 2 shows the number of live births reported as illegitimate 
in 28 States and the District of Columbia in the birth-registration 
area in 1923, and the rate of illegitimate live births per 1,000 total 
live births for each year of the period 1917 to 1923 : 

Table 2. — Live hirths reported as illegitimate in 1923 and illegitimate live 
births per 1,000 total live births, 1917-1923, by States in the birth-registra- 
tion area ^ 





Num- 
ber of 

live 
births 

re- 
ported 

as 
illegiti- 
mate, 

1923 


Rate of illegitimate live births per 1,000 total live 
in specified years 


births 


State 


1917 


1918 


1919 


1920 


1921 


1922 


1923 


United States birth-registra- 
tion area ' 


37,823 


18.6 


17.4 


21.1 


22.7 


24.4 


23.8 


23.3 






Connecticut 


367 

176 

110 
420 
1,677 
869 
405 

648 
370 
272 

519 
1,340 
1,434 
1,049 

186 
2, 929 
155 
372 
105 
928 


9.3 

(') 

21.0 
177.6 

13.1 
7.1 

9.8 

74.8 
9.7 

17.0 
170.9 
12.4 
16.1 

(') 

(') 

(«) 

(}) 

10.9 

(?) 


11.0 

(2) 

14.3 

146.7 

(2) 

12.1 

6.3 

7.4 

85.5 

8.4 

18.1 

171.3 

12.4 

16.0 

(') 
(?) 

w 

13.0 
i?) 


9.8 

18.3 

162.8 

(2) 

13.2 

7.3 

9.9 
103.9 
11.4 

18.6 

180.3 

13.2 

16.2 

(') 

(0 

i?) 

(') 

10.3 

(?) 


10.6 
(?) 

22.6 
155.8 

12.7 
7.0 

12.5 

113.7 

12.9 

18.5 

178.6 

15.1 

16.9 

(?) 

9.6 
11.8 

(?) 


11.1 
41.3 

18.9 
l.=;5.8 
(2) 
14.0 
9.9 

10.9 
107.0 
11.9 

18.4 

194.1 

16.5 

18.7 

8.9 
133.3 

11.5 
13.9 
13.1 


11.9 
45.6 

19.5 
167.2 
13.2 
12.6 
11.5 

12.8 

118.8 

13.4 

19.6 

184.2 

15.6 

18.4 

10.3 
135.4 
12.7 
11.1 
12.6 
13.0 


11.9 


Delaware 


38.8 


District of Columbia: 

White -- 


17.2 


Colored- 


160.0 




12.7 




13.3 


Kansas 


10.3 


Kentucky: 

White 


10.6 


Colored. 


105.2 


Maine'.- 


15.5 


Maryland: 

White - 


18.7 




195.1 


Michigan 


15.4 




18.6 


Mississippi: 

White 


8.9 




133.1 




14.8 




12.3 


New Hampshire ' . 


11.3 


New Jersey 


12.4 



» Exclusive of Californi.a and Ma.ssachusetts, for which illegitimacy statistics are not 
available. Birth, Stillbirth, and Infant Mortality Statistics for the Birth-Registration 
Area of the United States, 1921, 1922, and 1923. U. S. Bureau of the Census. Washing- 
ton, 1923, 1924, .T.IK1 1925. 

' Not in birth-registration area until a later date. 

8 The birth certificates of these States do not require information as to legitimacy, but it 
is somietlmes given, (.\lthough the Census Bureau states that the information " is some- 
times given," it will be seen from tlv table that the rates for Maine and New Hampshire 
are average and for Vermont very high.) 



CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 5 

Table 2. — Live births reported as illegitimate in 1923 and illegitimate live 
births per 1,000 total live births, 1911-1923, etc. — Continued 





Num- 
ber of 

live 
births 

re- 
ported 

as 
illegiti- 
mate, 

1923 


Rate of illegitimate live births per 1,000 total live births 
in specified years 


State 


1917 


1918 


1919 


1920 


1921 


1922 


1923 


New York 


2,783 

997 
3,509 
2,060 

183 
4,672 

236 

475 

3,266 

113 

186 

915 
2,725 
341 
997 
34 


12.2 

15.6 
124.8 
12.5 
W 
17.8 
14.2 

(«) 
(«) 
7.2 
12.3 

20.0 
127.8 
9.4 
12.0 
W 


9.0 

14.4 
114.3 
12.6 
(?) 
18.1 
8.4 

(') 
(?) 
8.5 
12.7 

17.4 

125. 4 

8.5 

11.9 

(') 


10.3 

14.8 
115.4 
14.9 
13.9 
19.0 
W 

16.9 

135.6 

7.8 

18.6 

18.2 

129.6 

9.8 

12.1 

(') 


12.2 

17.2 
127.7 
16.1 
14.3 
21.2 
(«) 

19.6 

140.6 

8.1 

17.5 

19.9 
129.0 
12.3 
15.0 
(•) 


12.3 

16.7 
131.2 
16.3 
14.0 
22.1 
4.2 

20.1 

142.7 

8.0 

17.2 

20.2 
135.2 
11.7 
16.2 


12.2 

17.3 
139.0 
17.1 
14.4 
22.8 
9.3 

19.8 

153.0 

7.7 

15.7 

19.7 
137.0 
12.0 
15.8 
6.9 


12.1 


North Carolina; 

White 


17.2 


Colored -- 


134.1 


Ohio --- 


16.0 


Oregon . 


12.2 




21.5 


Rhode Island 


16.3 


South Carolina: 

White — - 


20.7 


Colored 


153.0 


Utah . 


8.3 


Vermont' 


25.4 


Virginia: 

White.. 


20.5 


Colored 


138.6 


Washington.- 


13.5 


Wisconsin . 


16.9 


Wyoming 


6.9 







"^ Not in birth-registration area until a later date. 

^ The birth certificates of th<^se States do not require information as to legitimacy, but 
it is sometimes given. (Although the Census Bureau states that the information "is 
sometimes given," it will be seen from the table that the rates for Maine and New 
Hampshire are average and for Vermont very high.) 

* Not in birth-registration area in these two years. 

In 23 of the 28 States shown in Table 2, and in the District of 
Cohimbia, the number of illegitimate live births per 1,000 total live 
births, or the white rates where separate figures are given for white 
and colored ^ births, ranged in 1923 between 10 and 20 per 1,000, 
or between 1 and 2 per cent. The rate for the United States birth- 
registration area as a whole (23.3, exclusive of California and Massa- 
chusetts) was raised somewhat by the high rates for the colored. 
In six States and the District of Columbia rates for white and 
colored were given separatelv, the rates for the colored ranging from 
105.2 per 1,000 to 195.1 per" 1,000 (10.5 to 19.5 per cent). Though 
these rates are extremely high, compared with the white rates in the 
United States, they correspond rather closely to the rates for Euro- 
pean countries having the largest relative amount of illegitimacy. 

City rates of illegitimate live births for 21 cities in the United 
States having more than 100,000 inliabitants are shown in Table 3. 
In most cases the city rate is higher than the rate for the State in 
which it is located. 



2 Where the term " colored " is used in this report it includes all other than white and 
may include Indians, Chinese, and Japanese. 



10884°— 26- 



6 CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 

Table 3. — Illegitimate live hirths per 1,000 total live l)irths in 21 cities in the 
United States having more tha/ti 100,000 population in 1920^ 



City 


1915 


1916 


1917 


1918 


1919 


1920 


1921 


1922 


1923 


1924 






19.7 

25.7 
227.0 
22.4 
28.3 
29.2 
22.3 
41.5 
19.1 
62.8 
28.0 
39.9 
13.0 
10.6 
23.8 
19.7 
10.6 
39.2 
40.2 
20.0 
7.6 

16.1 
181.9 


16.4 

21.5 
216.2 
25.2 
23.0 
36.3 
20.8 
34.1 
18.6 
79.5 
26.3 
40.4 
11.6 
10.2 
23.2 
22.1 

8.6 
36.2 
47.8 
17.3 

9.2 

21.0 
177.6 


8.4 

18.7 
217.5 
18.0 
26.5 
39.6 
20.2 
29.0 
20.9 
82.3 
22.6 
40.5 


10.9 

17.2 
209.0 
22.4 
29.7 
33.7 
17.5 
31.7 
17.2 
119.3 
24.5 
35.0 


17.4 

13.2 
217.7 
18.9 
28.9 
31.9 
20.6 
33.1 
21.6 
135.7 
26.2 
40.4 
10.8 
10.7 
23.2 
17.8 
10.0 
37.1 
39.1 
16.9 
12.5 

22.6 
155.8 


18.7 

14.4 
222.8 
21.0 


17.2 

17.6 
199.3 
21.3 






Baltimore: 

White 


31.3 
245.2 
20.7 
38.3 
28.4 
25.9 
37.1 
18.1 
60.7 
25.9 
42.8 
13.9 
12.1 
27.5 
22.3 


15.7 
214.4 
20.3 


16.8 


Colored 


207.7 


Buffalo 


27.0 


















"'42."o' 
17.7 


18.0 
39.5 
20.4 


19.6 
38.9 
17.8 




Grand Rapids 

Hartford 


48.3 
19.8 


















47.3 
12.4 

"'"23.'o" 
17.9 
13.2 










13.2 
10.0 
24.1 
17.7 
14.8 


10.6 
9.4 
23.2 
17.0 






"""23.1" 
22.6 

6.5 
36.3 
37.6 
10.6 

6.9 

14.3 
146.7 


10.7 
23.5 
18.1 
10.0 
41.8 
40.6 
15.3 
8.1 

18.3 
162.8 




Philadelphia 




Providence 


19.9 








37.4 
37.4 






St. Paul 


38.8 
17.0 
8.7 

18.9 
155.8 


41.8 
23.6 
8.4 

19.5 
167.2 


36.7 


39.5 














Washington, D. C: 
White 


22.6 
194.5 


17.2 
160.0 


19.0 


Colored 


164.3 







1 Data from annual reports of or figures furnished by State boards of health, departments of public wel- 
fare, or bureaus of vital statistics. For Washington, D. C, the figures for 1917-1923 are from the Annual 
Reports of Birth Statistics (U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1921, 1922, and 1923). 

ILLEGITIMACY BATES ACCORDING TO COUNTRY OF BIRTH AND AGE OF MOTtiER 

In the United States birth-registration area in 1923, exclusive of 
California and Massachusetts, for which illegitimacy statistics are 
not available, 23 live births out of every 1,000 were illegitimate. 
The lowest illegitimacy rate was among the foreign-born mothers. 
Of the births to native white mothers 16 per 1,000 and of the births 
to negro mothers 126 per 1,000 were illegitimate. 

Among the foreign-born mothers, Italians were found to have the 
lowest rate (1.8) and Canadians the highest (12.8). Even the Ca- 
nadian rate, however, was lower than the rate for mothers born in 
the United States. The rates, according to race and birthplace of 
the mothers, are shown in the following list : 

Rate per 
1,000 live 
births in 
United 
States 
birth- 
registra- 
tion area, 
1023 » 



Race and country of 
birth of mother 



Total 23.3 



White 13. 8 

United States 16.1 

Foreign countries 5. 3 

Austria, Hungary 5. 7 

Canada 12. 8 

Denmark, Norway, 

Sweden 9. 5 

England, Scotland, 

Wales 10. 5 

Ireland 10. 3 

*E^EClU6ive of California and Massachusetts. 







Rate per 






1,000 live 






births in 






United 






States 






bii-th- 






registra- 


Race and country of 




tion area. 


birth of mother 




1923 » 


White — Continued 






Foreign countries 


— Contd 




Germany 




_ 12.0 


Italy 




_- 1.8 


Poland 




4.4 


Russia 




__ 2.5 


Other foreign 


countries. 5. 9 


Country not 


stated 


_- 107.3 


Colored : 






Negro 




126.3 


Other colored 




„ 38.6 



CHILDREN or ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 



Approximately half the illegitimate births in the birth-registra- 
tion area in 1923, exclusive of California and Massachusetts, were to 
mothers under 20 years of age, and about four-fifths were to mothers 
uritler 25. 

The following list shows the distribution of illegitimate births ac- 
cording to the age of the mother : 



Age of mother at 
birth of child 



Per cent 
distribu- 
tion of 
illegiti- 
mate 
births 



Total 100.0 



10 years, under 15 2. 4 

15 years, under 20 48. 8 

20 years, under 25 29. 8 



Per cent 

distribu- 
tion of 
illegiti- 
Age of mother at mate 

birth of child births 

25 years, under 30 9. 8 

30 years, under 35 4. 8 

35 years, under 40 3. 2 

40 years, under 45 1. 1 

45 years and over . 2 



Comparison of the age distribution of white and colored mothers 
shows 81.2 per cent of the white and 80.6 per cent of the colored less 
than 25 years of age. But the proportion of colored mothers (53.2 
per cent) less than 20 years of age is greater than that of white 
mothers (49.2 per cent). The percentage of white mothers in the age 
period 20 to 24 years is greater than that of negroes. Of the births 
to foreign-born mothers only 28 per cent w^ere to mothers under 20. 
Seventy-nine per cent of the births to foreign-born mothers were to 
mothers under 30 compared with 91 per cent of the births to native 
white mothers and 90 per cent of those to colored mothers. 

ESTIMATED NUMBER OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTHS IN THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES 

The population of the birth-registration area in 1923, exclusive of 
California and Massachusetts, for which illegitimacy statistics are 
not available, comprised 72.2 per cent of the total estimated popula- 
tion of the United States. In attempting to estimate the number 
of illegitimate births in the entire coimtry it is necessary to apply 
the rate for this area to the estimated total number of births in the 
country as a whole. It must be borne in mind, however, that this 
procedure results in an understatement of the true figure, inasmuch 
as negroes, among whom the illegitimacy rate is high, comprised, 
according to the 1920 census, 9.9 per cent of the population of the 
entire United States and only 6.2 per cent of the population of the 
States in the birth-registration area. 

The estimated nuinber of births in the United States in 1923 was 
2,482,889; applying to this number the rate of illegitimate births 
(23.8 per 1,000) as found for the registration area in 1023 gives 
57,851 as the estimated number of illegitimate births in the United 
States in that year. 

THE HIGH INFANT MORTALITY RATE AND ITS CAUSES 

Nowhere is the need for protection of infancy so clearly indicated 
as in the mortality rates for infants born out of wedlock. European 
statistics have shown that mortality among such infants is invariably 
higher than among other infants — sometimes more than twice as 



8 CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 

high.* Unfortunately, mortality statistics for infants of illegitimate 
birth are practicajly nonexistent in the United States. A study made 
in Boston covering the year 1914 showed a rate for infants of 
illegitimate birth three times as high as the rate for infants born in 
wedlock; in New Bedford in 1913 and Milwaukee in 1916-1917 
the rates were, respectively, 2.7 times and 2.3 times as high. In 
Baltimore in 1915 the infant mortality rate for white infants born 
out of wedlock was 3.3 times as high as the rate for other white 
infants, and among the colored infants the difference in the rates 
was 1.8, Marked improvement has taken place in some of these 
cities in recent years. In Baltimore in 1921 the rate for white in- 
fants of illegitimate birth was only 1.8 times as high as the rate 
for other white infants, and the rates for colored infants of legiti- 
mate and of illegitimate birth were practically equal.° 

Perhaps the most important factor in high infant mortality is 
early separation of the mother and child and the consequent diffi- 
culties with feeding. A sentiment growing in favor in many com- 
munities is that of keeping mother and child together wherever 
the mother's rights and obligations and the welfare of the child can 
be promoted by this means. The policy of keeping mother and 
child together, at least during the nursing period, has been advo- 
cated for a long time and has been followed successfully by many 
maternity homes and by some child-caring agencies. 

Recent legislation in three States has placed legal sanction upon 
the policy of requiring mothers and babies to remain together dur- 
ing the nursing period. Maryland public sentiment was aroused 
by a study made by the State vice commission in 1914, which re- 
vealed the seriousness of the problem of early separation from their 
mothers of infants born out of wedlock and the high mortality pre- 
vailing among babies cared for in institutions apart from their 
mothers. In 1916 a statute was enacted providing that no child 
under 6 months of age may be separated from his mother for place- 
ment in a foster home or institution except under one of the three 
following specified conditions: (1) Certification (with statement of 
the reasons for the necessity of separation for the physical good of 
the mother or child) by two physicians qualified to practice medi- 
cine in the State of Maryland and engaged in active practice for at 
least five years; (2) order for separation by a court of competent 
jurisdiction; (3) written consent to separation by the board of State 
aid and charities. The law makes no distinction between children 
born out of wedlock and children of legitimate birth, but in opera- 
tion it affects mainly children of illegitimate birth." North Carolina 
enacted in 1917 a statute similar to that of Maryland forbidding 
separation except with the written consent of the clerk of the supe- 
rior court and of the county health officer.^ South Carolina passed 



* niegitimacv as a Child-Welfare Problem— Pt. 1, p. 29. U. S. Children's Bureau Pub- 
lication No. 66. Washington, 1020. „,,..., .^ ,..i r> i* ♦ 

B Illegitimacy as a Child-Welfare Problem — Pt. 2, p. 90; Infant Mortality — Results of 
a Field Study in New Bedford, Mass., based on births in one year. pp. 15, 64. 66 ; Illegiti- 
macy as a Child-Welfare Problem— Pt. 3, p. 96; Infant Mortality— Results of a Field 
Study in Baltimore, Md., based on births in one year, p. 169 ; The Welfare of Infants of 
Illegitimate Birth in Baltimore, p. 6. U. S. Children's Bureau Publications Nos. 7-5, 68, 
128, 119, and 144. Washington, 1921, 1920. 1924, 1923, and 1925. 

•Maryland, act of Apr. 11, 1916, Laws of 1916, ch. 210. 

» North Carolina, Laws of 1917, ch 59 ; 1919, ch. 240. 



CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 9 

a law in 1923 (applicable only to counties of 90,000 to 100,000 inhab- 
itants) making it unlawful to remove a baby under 6 months of age 
from the mother for the purpose of placing in a foster home without 
the written consent of the judge of the children's court and the 
countj^ health officer, and in 1924 passed a law requiring that per- 
sons, agencies, or organizations removing from his mother a child 
under 6 months of age report to the child-placing bureau oL' the 
State board of public welfare the names and addresses of the persons 
taking the child and of the parents of the child. This requirement 
does not apply in case, the child is known to have been born in 
wedlock.^ 

In order to ascertain, if possible, the etfect of the Maryland law 
upon mortality among infants born out of wedlock and upon the 
policies and work of social agencies, the United States Children's 
Bureau made a study in Baltimore of conditions in the year 1921. 
One of the bureau's infant mortality studies had covered babies born 
in Baltimore in 1915 (the year before the passage of the law) so 
that com])arable data for this earlier period were available. 

According to findings of the bureau's study, infant mortality 
among babies born out of wedlock has been markedly reduced in 
Baltimore, both absolutely and in relation to mortality among chil- 
dren of legitimate birth. Approximately 1 in every 3 infants born 
out of wedlock in 1915 died before the age of 1 year, and 1 in every 
4 before the age of 6 months. Of the babies born in 1921 only 1 in 
every 8 died before the first birthday and only 1 in every 12 before 
6 months. Mortality among infants born out of wedlock was reduced 
more than 50 per cent between 1915 and 1921, and the rate for infants 
of legitimate birth was reduced less than^20 per cent. In 1915 the 
mortality rate among infants born out of wedlock was almost three 
times as high as the corresponding rate for infants of legitimate 
birth ; in 1921 it was one and one-half times as high. The percentage 
of decrease in the mortality rate among infants of illegitimate birth 
was greater (80.4 per cent) for babies of 1 to 3 months than for any 
other age period.^ 

In Minnesota, under a joint resolution adopted in July, 1918, by 
the State board of health and the board of control, hospitals and ma- 
ternity homes must require their patients to nurse infants at the 
breast so long as they remain under the care of the institution. 
Where nursing by the mother is impossible for any physical reason 
exception to this rule may be made by the State board of health or 
State board of control acting upon proper medical advice.^^ 

The Milwaukee program for keeping mothers and babies together 
during a three-months' nursing period was put into effect in 1919. 
In the .two-year period, 1916-17, the mortality rate in Milwaukee for 
infants born out of wedlock was 236.8, or 2.3 times the rate for chil- 
dren of legitimate birth. A study of illegitimacy covering the year 
ended September 30, 1917, showed that more than half the children 

» South Carolina, act of Mar. 27, 1923, Acts of 1923, No. 148, sw. 19 ; act of Mar. 24, 
1924, Acts of 1924, No. 728, sec. 8. 

» The Welfare of Infants of Ulegitimate Birth in Baltimore, as affected by a Maryland 
law of 1916 governing the separation from their mothers of children under 6 months 
old, p. 7. U. S. Children's Bureau Publication No. 144. Washington, 1925. 

°« By a Colorado law (Laws of 1925, ch. 133) maternity hospitals must require unmar- 
ried mothers to nurse their babies while in the hospitals if physically able to do so. 



10 CHILDREN OP ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 

included in the study had been separated from their mothers and 
that 45 per cent of the children whose ages at the time of first sepa- 
ration were known had been separated within a month after birth. 
The executive secretary of the Juvenile Protective Association, in 
describing the results of Milwaukee's program for unmarried 
mothers and babies after it had been two years in operation, com- 
ments as follows : 

The results of these measures have been gratifying and far-reaching. The 
child-placing organizatiens and the doctors and other individuals who formerly 
brought many babies a few days old into the city to.be placed for adoption, are 
now required to have permits to board them until they are placed with adoptive 
parents. Commercial lyiug-in hospitals and maternity homes, which formerly 
permitted mothers to leave when their babies were only 10 days or 2 weeks old, 
without any effort at breast feeding, must now apply for a permit to keep the 
baby without the mother. This requirement gives an opportunity for a social 
investigation and for finding a way to keep the mother and baby together, in 
the city or elsewhere, during the three months' nursing period."" 

Under the Milwaukee plan applications for separation or for 
exemption from the three months' breast-feeding rule are submitted 
to the Juvenile Protective Association. A study of aj^plications for 
separation during the first eight months showed that 69 per cent 
of those M^ho applied for immediate separation were persuaded 
to keep their babies and nurse them, and only 9 per cent of this 
group released their children at the end of three months. It has 
been the experience of the association that the appeal to the un- 
married mother to nurse her baby at least for the minimum period 
of three months as a kind of reparation for having brought him 
into the world so handicapped is an almost unfailing argument. 
It has been found also thq^t at the end of this period not only has 
there been opportunity for a thorough social investigation but the 
mother has had a chance to recover from her physical and mental 
strain and is more capable of deciding what she wishes to do for her 
baby and for her own rehabilitation. 

ILLEGITIMACY AS A DEPENDENCY PROBLEM 

An important part of the problem of child dependency is con- 
cerned with children born out of wedlock. These children are 
usually, by the circumstances of their birth, denied normal home 
life and parental care. Illegitimacy contributes largely to the 
burden the public must bear for the care and support of its weaker 
members. Factors such as poor health, low mentality, immorality, 
and low economic status of the mother, the father, or the grand- 
parents, often make it impossible for the child to be provided for 
without the assistance of social agencies. The fact that in a. large 
proportion of cases the father contributes either nothing at all or 
inadequate amounts results in placing upon the mother a double 
burden of care and support. 

■ More than one-third of the children born out of wedlock in one 
large city in one ^''ear were under the care of child-caring or child- 
protective agencies during infancy. One-sixth of the cases under 
care of private child-caring agencies during one year, one-ninth 

w lilepitimacv as a Child Welfare Problem — Pt. 3, p. 101. U. S. Children's Bureau 
Publication No! 128. Washington, 1924. 



children' OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 11 

of the cases under care of the public child-caring agency of the 
city, and almost one-fourth of those whose care had been assumed 
by the State child-caring agency concerned children of illegitimate 
birth. 

In most States the child born out of wedlock bears practically the 
same relation to the mother, in matters of support and inheritance, 
as the child of legitimate birth ; but in practically all States, up to the 
present time, it has been held incompatible with the interests of 
the legal family to place the child of illegitimate birth upon an 
equality with the child born in wedlock with respect to his claims 
upon the father. The obligation of the father to give at least a 
measure of support to his child born out of wedlock, however, has 
been recognized by the laws of most of the States. The period over 
which support is required and the maximum amounts frequently 
specified have in manj^ cases been entirely inadequate. Even though 
the intent of the law is to require fairly adequate provision, the 
difficulties of enforcement are very great. These include the reluc- 
tance of the mother to reveal the name of the father and to testify 
in open court, the absconding of the father to another State, the 
difficulty in obtaining evidence and in establishing the facts, and 
compromises out of court for inadequate sums. 

Legislation in the United States compelling the father to con- 
tribute to the support of his child born out of wedlock originated in 
the desire to protect the public from the necessity of supporting 
such children rather than in concern for their welfare. Although 
this principle had been somewhat modified in favor of the mother 
and the child, few radical changes were made until recent years. 
Within the last decade there has been a marked change in social 
emphasis, the child's welfare being made the predominant considera- 
tion, accompanied by the recognition of the State's responsibility. 
Laws in accordance with this trend have already been enacted in 
some States, and in a number of others bills embodying radical 
changes have been given serious consideration. (See pp. 16-20.) 

Support is sometimes obtained without court action through the 
efforts of social agencies or otherwise. However, studies have shown 
that the father's responsibility for the support of his child is assumed 
in only a small proportion of the cases coming to the attention of 
social agencies, and usually only to a limited extent. That so many 
children born out of wedlock are deprived of support from their 
fathers has serious implications in regard to chance for survival, 
health, and opportunities for normal childhood. For three cities the 
percentages of cases of children under 2 years of age linown to social 
agencies (including maternity homes and hospitals) in which the 
father had made any contribution to the support of the child were: 
Boston, 88 per cent; Milwaukee, 36 per cent; and Philadelphia, 40 
per cent." 

The ability of the father to assume his legal obligations for the 
support of his child, aside from the very important item of his 
willingness to do so, is indicated to some extent by data concerning 
the marital status, age, and occupation of the father. Perhaps the 
most important factor is marital condition, as related to his obligation 
to support a legal family. In this respect, and also as an indication 

" Ibid., p. 244, 



12 CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 

of the character of the fathers, it is extremely significant that studies 
including 2,183 fathers showed approximately one-third to be mar- 
ried, widowed, divorced, or separated. For five studies — three in 
Boston, one in Philadelphia, and one in Milwaukee — the percentages 
of fathers reported as married, widowed, divorced, separated, or 
deserting were as follows : 15, 27, 28, 31, and 42, respectively.^^ 

THE FACTORS IN THE PROBLEM IN RELATION TO PREVENTIVE 

SOCIAL MEASURES 

In considering illegitimate parenthood from the point of view of 
reduction of the problem it is necessary to analyze the factors that 
lead to the condition. Girls and women who become mothers out of 
wedlock may be divided into the following types : {a) The mentally 
subnormal girl who lacks controlling inhibitory instincts and is an 
easy victim because of helplessness; (6) the young, susceptible girl, 
unprotected from dangers, who gets into trouble because of lack of 
understanding, or through force; (c) the more mature young woman 
of good character who is led by false promises or who weakly or 
rashly follows an instinct that under other conditions would have 
been normal and social; {d) the really delinquent girl or woman, 
who knowingly chooses antisocial conduct, her illegitimate maternity 
being only an incidental evidence of repeated immorality. The last 
type is undoubtedly recruited to a considerable extent from the pre- 
ceding ones. The fathers include young boys who equally with 
the mothers need constructive help, and older men, many of whom 
are married, widowed, divorced, or separated, and have children of 
legitimate birth dependent upon them for support- 
Preventive and reconstructive measures must be based on knowl- 
edge of how the individuals composing the antisocial group deviate — 
inherently or accidentally — from the average (that for want of a 
better measure is considered the normal). How much of the illegiti- 
mate parenthood represented by approximately 60,000 births annu- 
ally in the United States may properly be attributed to moral delin- 
quency, and what measures can be undertaken to lessen the problem '{ 
There can be no general rule for handling this problem. Each case 
represents a variety of conditions and must be dealt with individ- 
ually. But in this, as in other social problems requiring individual 
treatment, certain general facts emerge from study of the back- 
ground of illegitimate parenthood, and these indicate underlying 
conditions that should be recognized and dealt with. 

AGES OF MOTHERS 

Undoubtedly the individual and social maladjustments frequently 
accompanying adolescence are significant factors in illegitimate 
maternity. Unmarried mothers are for the most part young mothers, 
and a considerable proportion are girls in their teens. A comparison 
is shown in Table 4 of the ages of married and unmarried white 
mothers of first-born children, based on data obtained from field 
studies of infant mortality in four cities and from studies of illegiti- 
macy in one of these cities and in three others : " 

i^Ibid., p. 243. 

"The percentage of foreisru liorn among the total female white population of the two 
groups of cities was approximately the same. 



CHILJJREK OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 



13 



Table 4. — Percentage distribiifion of married and unmarried white mothers of 
first-born children, by age 





Percentage distri- 
bution 


Age 


Percentage distri- 
bution 


Age 


Married 

white 

mothers 

(4,116) 1 


Un- 
married 
white 
mothers 
(1,486) 2 


Married 

white 
mothers 

(4,116) 1 


Un- 
married 
white 
mothers 
(1,486) 2 


Under 18 years 


5 


17 
30 
39 


25 years, under 30 . 


21 


10 


18 years, under 21 


27 
39 


30 vears, under 35. 


6 
2 


3 


21 years, under 25 


35 years and over 


1 







1 In Baltimore, Gary, New Bedford, and Waterbury. 
3 In Baltimore, Boston, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia. 

It is seen that slightly more than one-sixth of the mothers out of 
wedlock were under 18 years of age. Of the group that may be 
considered '" normal," that is, conforming to law and custom, only 
one-twentieth were under this age. In the next age group there is 
very little difference — the proportion of unmarried mothers 18 to 20 
years of age being 3 per cent higher than the proportion of married 
mothers. The proportions in the 21 to 24 year groups are the same, 
but in the 25 to 30 year group the proportion of unmarried mothers 
is 11 per cent lower than the proportion of married mothers. It 
must be remembered that first births only are included for both 
groups. 

These age figures show the importance of preventive and protec- 
tive work which will safeguard young girls from undesirable influ- 
ences and develop in them judgment and stability of character. 
Herein lies the most hopeful possibility for the reduction of ille- 
gitimacy and the delinquencies with which it is allied. 

For 1,576 fathers of children born out of wedlock, included in 
studies in various localities, information concerning age was ob- 
tained : The percentage distribution was as follows : " 



Age of fathers Per cent 
Total 100. 



Under IS years. 



Age of fathers Per cent 

IS years, under 21 19. 4 

21 years, under 25 39 .1 

25 years and over 3S. 

It is not possible to compare the ages of these fathers with the ages 
of married fathers. Nearly one-fourth, as compared with almost 
half the mothers, were under 21. 

MENTAUTY OF MOTHER 

Inferior mentality and psychopathic traits are without doubt of 
importance as predisposing factors, though early estimates of the 
proportion of unmarried mothers who were feeble-minded were 
undoubtedly overstatements. Few reliable figures are available con- 
cerning the extent of mental defect among unmarried mothers, and 
it is obviously impossible to obtain comparable figures as to men- 



" Illegitimacy as a Child-Welfare Problem— Pt. 3, pp. 48, 109, 210. 



14 CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 

tality for the group conforming to social customs — the married 
mothers. No information has beenobtained concerning the mentality 
of the fathers. 

Proportions of mothers who had been diagnosed as feeble-minded, 
subnormal, or insane, as reported in various studies, range from 4 
to 16 per cent. These percentages are based upon the total number 
of mothers included in the studies, a large proportion of whom had 
not been given mental examinations/^ 

Emphasis has often been placed on the possibility of preventing 
a part of this problem through adequate provision for the mentally 
subnormal. Analysis of data concerning child-mothers shows that 
more than one-fifth were known to be not normal mentally." Of the 
girls 15 years of age and under, 30 per cent were so reported. The 
need is urgent for protecting these young girls, who are especially 
defenseless because lacking in intelligence. It has been shown for 
four large cities that one-sixth of the unmarried mothers were under 
18 years of age; the significance of the proportion of low mentality 
among them is obvious. 

PREVIOUS CHARACTER OF MOTHERS 

Often illegitimate maternity is part of a career of innnorality and 
other delinquencies induced by bad environment, absence of healthful 
forms of recreation, and unprotected youth. From one-fourth to al- 
most two-thirds of the mothers included in a number of studies were 
reported to liave been morally delinquent or of otherwise poor char- 
acter in addition to the experience resulting in the birth of a child 
out of wedlock,^' and two-thirds of a group of over 700 fathers known 
to Boston agencies Avere so reported.^^ In a group of 320 girls under 
the age of 18 years for whom there was information as to character, 
almost half were ioiown to have been delinquents previous to this 
experience, and one-third of the whole number were laiown to have 
been immoral previousl}^ Apparently the difficulty began in early 
adolescence in a large proportion of cases. 

OCCUPATIONAL STATUS OF MOTHERS 

A comparison was made of the occupations of unmarried mothers 
previous to the birth of the child and of all gainfully employed 
women in Boston.^" Of almost TOO unmarried mothers, 86 per cent 
had been gainfully emplo3'ed before the child's birth. Of the unmar- 
ried mothers 16 to 20 years of age at the time of the child's birth, 
83 per cent were engaged in gainful occupations; only 6(> per cent 
of the same age group in the general population were gainfully 
employed. 

The figures as to occupational status show that unmarried mothers 
are for the most part young wage earners in the less skilled occu- 

ii'Ibid., p. 241 (mothers under care of ^Massachusetts State Infirmary not included). 

>« From data obtained in Boston and Massachusetts for the report Illegitimacy &s a 
Child-Welfare Problem — Pt. 2, p. 113 (U. S. Children's Bureau I'ublic-ation No. 75, Wash- 
ington, 1921). 

iMllegitimacy as a Child- Welfare Problem — Pt. 3, p. 241. 

>8Ibid., pt. 2, p. 108. 

1" The figures for unmarried women relate to 1914, and the tigures for all employed 
women were derived from the Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910. 



CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 15 

pations. Almost a third of all gainfully employed women in Boston 
were classed as semiskilled workers; the percentage among the 
mimarried mothers was the same. But 16 per cent of all wao-e- 
earning women were factory operatives — an occupation within the 
semiskilled group — compared with 27 per cent of the unmarried 
mothers. The most striking discrepancy is found in the percentages 
in domestic and personal service — 25 per cent of all working women 
compared with 55 per cent of the unmarried mothers were so 
employed. 

Statistics relating to the occupation of the father indicate that 
in the communities studied almost half were semiskilled workers, 
laborers, or servants, though a large percentage were skilled workers 
or clerks and kindred workers.-" 

HOME CONDITIONS OP MOTHERS 

The incidence of broken homes or abnormal home conditions is 
an important causative factor in all forms of delinquency. In three 
cities where analyses were made of the histories of unmarried moth- 
ers coming to the attention of social agencies, 31 per cent, 49 per 
cent, and 71 per cent, respectively, came from homes broken through 
the death of one or both parents, or through divorce, separation, oi- 
desertion, or were foreign-born mothers whose parents had never 
been in the United States.-^ 

The close relation between home conditions and delinquency is 
brought out in analysis of the histories of 320 unmarried mothers 
under 18 years of age. In over half the cases in which the sxirls had 
been immoral, otherwise delinquent, or of poor character, aside from 
the experience which had brought them within the scope of the study, 
the parents were delinquent or of poor character, or had been de- 
pendent upon charity. Where both parents were living and were 
present in the home 55 per cent of the girls were reported to have 
been of good character and 45 per cent of poor character. Where 
conditions were abnormal 49 per cent of the girls had been of good 
character and 51 per cent had not. These figures point to what is 
probably the most fundamental of the underlying causes — low stand- 
ards of family life and the absence of wholesome home influences. 
Even before tlie special need for care occasioned by illegitimate 
maternity a large number of these child-mothers had required care 
and protection outside their own homes. Forty of the 320 girls had 
been in correctional institutions or before courts ; 43 had been wards 
of chdd-caring agencies; and 10 had been under care both as delin- 
quent and as dependent children. 

The need for the following preventive social measures is indicated : 
(a) Proper care and protection of the mentally subnormal; (h) edu- 
cation m sex hygiene; (c) safeguarding of recreation and provision 
of wholesome activities into which the normal instincts of youth may 
be directed; (d) development of school programs for dealing with 
problems of maladjustment and conduct; (e) adequate provision for 

_ =0 Illegitimacy as a Child-Welfare Problem— Pt. .3, p. 244. In Baltimore, a city hav- 
ing a large negro population, two-thirds of the fathers were semiskilled workers, laborers 
or servants. ' 

-' Ibid., p. 242. 



16 CHILDREN 0¥ ILLEGITIMATE BlKTll 

supervision in the community and for institutional care directed 
toward reeducation for delinquent young people of both sexes; and 
(/) legal provision for holding both mothers and fathers to their 
responsibilities toward their children born out of wedlock. 

CONSTRUCTIVE LEGISLATION 

The laws of the Scandinavian countries relating to children born 
out of wedlock are recognized as setting standards in advance of 
those prevailing in most countries. In considering the extent to 
which the legislation of any country may be used as a guide in fram- 
ing laws for the United States differences in legal systems and 
social conditions must be borne in mind. 

The Norwegian law that became effective January 1, 1916, gives 
a child born out of wedlock the same right of inheritance that is 
given a child of legitimate birth. The responsibility for maintenance 
is placed upon both parents in accordance with the economic status 
of the one more favorably situated. The law requires the compul- 
sory reporting of pregnancy by the physician or midwife consulted 
and of the birth of a child out of wedlock by the phj^sician or midwife 
or bj'^ the mother. Upon receipt of the notice the local police au- 
thority reports to the superior magistrate, who issues a citation upon 
the man named as father. If the alleged father does not admit 
paternit}^ he must make application to institute an action of paternity 
or else be held liable as the father.-- 

The Swedish law, which went into effect January 1, 1918, gives 
no right of inheritance from the father except in the case of 
" betrothal children " but places the responsibility for support on 
both parents. The economic circumstances of both are to be taken 
into account. The mother is given the custody and legal guardian- 
ship of the child, unless otherwise ordained by the court. The parent 
not having the care of the child is to meet the expenses of his main- 
tenance. A woman with child out of wedlock must report her con- 
dition to -the "guardian official" of the parish or to the person 
commissioned by him. Immediately upon receipt of such report or 
of information that a child has been born out of wedlock, the guard- 
ian official must designate a suitable man or woman as guardian of 
the child. It is made the dutj- of the guardian to assist the mother 
with counsel and information and to see that the child's rights and 
welfare are properly safeguarded. It is especially incumbent upon 
him to see that steps are taken immediately for the determination 
of paternity and status and for insuring the child's support. In 
the trial the burden of proof is on the complainant and not on the 
alleged father, as in Norway, unless formal acknowledgment of 
paternity has been made previously. The guardian is to assist in 
fixing the amount of support and in securing payments.-^ 

Legislation in the United States providing for support by the 
father for his child born out of wedlock was modeled largely after 
English bastardy legislation, and few significant changes occurred 
until within the last few years. The Minnesota law of 1917 is among 



>a Svensk Forfattningssamling. 1917 N : r. 376. Lag on barn utom aktonsknp : given 
Lelfur Magniisson. U. S. Children's Bureau Publication No. 31. Washin-Jiton. lOlS. 

=3 Svonsk Forfaltningssambling. 1917. N : r. 37G. Lag om barn utom iikteuskap : given 
Stockholm's Slott deii 14 juni, 1917. 



CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 17 

the most practical and far-reaching yet enacted in the United States 
and embodies in large part the features of the best foreign laws, 
so far as they were considered applicable to conditions in this coun- 
try. It includes an emphatic declaration of the State's responsibility 
for the welfare of children born out of wedlock : 

This chapter shall be liberally construed with a view to effecting its purpose, 
which is primarily to safeguard the interest of illegitimate children and secure 
for them the nearest possible approxim;ition to the care, support, and educa- 
tion that they would be entitled to receive if born of lawful marriage, which 
purpose is hereby acknowledged and declared to be the duty of the State.^* 

Under the Minnesota law the person adjudged the father is placed 
under all the obligations imposed by law upon the father of the 
child of legitimate birth. Upon the State board of control are im- 
posed definite responsibilities for the protection of children born out 
of wedlock. The work that is being done and the results that have 
alreadj^ been obtained by the various county boards of child welfare 
in this State are worthy of special attention as important accom- 
plishments in the reduction of child dependency and neglect. 

At the request of the Inter-City Conference on Illegitimacy, the 
Children's Bureau in February, 1920, called two regional con- 
ferences, one in Chicago, representing the Middle West, and the 
other in New York, representing the eastern part of the country. 

Representatives of public departments, executives and case workers 
of child-caring agencies, judges, lawyers, probation officers, and others 
who had been invited to attend JDecause of their special interest 
in the problem under consideration, were present at the conferences. 
Although attendance at each of the two-day conferences was limited, 
21 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada were represented, 
the delegates coming from a total of 35 cities. 

The conferences dealt with the broad basic principles of legislation 
for the protection of children born out of wedlock, from the points 
of view of the lawyer and of the social worker; with methods of 
establishing parentage, types of court procedure, and the responsi- 
bility of the father and of the mother ; and with the extent to which 
the State should assume guardianship or supervision over children 
of illegitimate birth. The rights and responsibilities of the child, 
the mother, the father, and the State were discussed. It was 
generall}^ agreed that the welfare of the child is of greatest concern. 
The necessity of flexibility of machinery and methods and individual 
case work was pointed out. At the last meeting of each conference 
a resolutions committee of five members submitted a report which 
was discussed and acted upon by the whole group. 

Although in some instances one conference went further than the 
other, there is remarkable unanimity in the resolutions adopted by 
the two groups, and the main recommendations are here summarized 
together: 

1. Birth registration. — All births should be registered, but in 
case of an illegitimate birth the name of the father should be 
recorded on the birth certificate only after an adjudication of 
paternity or on the written consent of the father. Adjudications of 
paternity should be reported by courts to the birth-registration 
authorities. Records of birth out of wedlock should be confidential, 

2< Minnesota. Laws of 1917, ch. 210, amending Gen. Stat. 1013 by adding sec. 3225 (d). 



18 CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 

open to inspection only upon order of court, and transcripts for 
school or work purposes should not disclose any facts concerning 
birth status. 

2. Reporting 'to adTninistrative agency. — All births not clearly 
legitimate should be reported to a public agency having the 
responsibility for child welfare. 

3. E sfahllshment of paternity. — Proceedings to establish paternity 
should be initiated by the mother. If she is unwilling, and the public 
agency above referred to deems it advisable in the interest of the 
child, proceedings should be instituted by the public agency. The 
law should provide for the use of either a civil or a criminal pro- 
ceeding, as the exigencies of the case demand. The court given 
jurisdiction should be equipped with a staff of probation officers 
or other social case workers, and the proceedings should be as 
informal and private as possible. 

./. The fathe7'\s responsibility for the support of the child. — The 
resolutions of the middle-western conference stated that " the father 
of a child born out of wedlock should make financial provision for 
the adequate care, maintenance, and education of the child, having 
reference to the father's economic condition." The resolutions of the 
eastern conference included the statement that " the obligations for 
support on the part of the father should be the same for the child 
born out of wedlock as for the legitimate child." Both conferences 
agreed that the court should have continuing jurisdiction with refer- 
ence to both custody and support during the minority of the child, 
that the acceptance of lump-sum payments should be in the discre- 
tion of the court, and that settlements out of court in order to be 
valid should be approved by the court. 

5. Inliemtwnce and name. — After an adjudication of paternity or 
an acknowledgment in writing by the father the child born out of 
wedlock should have the same rights of inheritance as the child born 
in wedlock. Assumption of the name of the father should be per- 
missive after a cl judication of paternity or acloiowledgment in writ- 
ing by the father. 

6. Legitimdtion. — The resolutions of the eastern conference stated 
that subsequent marriage of the ])arents should legitimate the child 
born out of wedlock and that offspring of a void or voidable mar- 
riage should be by law legitimate. 

7. Care hy the mother. — Whenever possible the mother should be 
persuaded to keep her child during the nursing period at least, but 
the enactment of compulsory legislation was not recommended. 

8. State supervision. — The duty of the State to protect the in- 
terests of children born out of wedlock was recognized and affirmed. 
The conferences recommended the creation, Avith due allowance for 
local variance and need, of State departments having responsibility 
for child welfare, whose duties should include responsibility for 
assisting unmarried mothers and their children. The parents should 
not be permitted to surrender a child for adoption, or to transfer 
guardianship, or to place him out permanently for care, without 
order of a court or a State department, made after investigation. 
The State should license and supervise private hospitals that receive 
unmarried mothers for confinement and all private child-helping 
and child-placing agencies. Full opportunity should be afforded. 



CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 19 

however, for the development of pri\ate initiative, and there should 
be cordial cooperation between private agencies and the State. 

In August, 1920. the National Conference of Commissioners on 
Uniform State LaAvs. at the request of the Children's Bureau, ap- 
pointed a committee to consider illegitimacy legislation and to sug- 
gest a model law that might be followed by the various States with 
such modifications as might be found necessary to suit local condi- 
tions. At its 1922 annual meeting the conference approved a '" uni- 
form illegitimacy act '' and I'ecommended it to the States for 
adoption.-^ 

The bill as recommended deals entirely with the obligation of the 
parents for the child's support, except that a section is included 
which eliminates unnecessary reference to illegitimacy in records, 
certificates, and other papers. Questions relating to the registration 
of illegitimate births are not included, because they have been cov- 
ered in the model birth registration law proposed by the commis- 
sioners on uniform State laws. Items concerning status — inheritance, 
legitimation, the right to the father's name — were included in the 
first draft which was considered at the 1921 meeting but were later 
omitted because of the opposition that arose to a number of the 
provisions. 

The initial statement of the bill is practically identical Avith the 
corresponding section of the Norwegian law : " The parents of a 
child born out of wedlock and not legitimated owe the child neces- 
sary maintenance, education, and support." The uniform law makes 
the father liable for the expenses of the mother's pregnancy and 
confinement. The obligations of the parents to support the child 
under the laws for the support of poor relatives are also made to 
apply to children born out of wedlock. The obligation of the father, 
where his paternity has been judicially established in his lifetime or 
has been acknowledged by him. is enforceable against his estate — 
in such amount as the court may determine, having regard to various 
factors specified relative to the child, his mother, and the father's 
law^ful family. 

Action may be undertaken against the father by the mother, her 
legal representative, a third person furnishing support, or the au- 
thorities charged with the child's support, should he become de- 
pendent. The support judgment is to be for annual amounts, equal 
or varying, until the child reaches the age of 16 years. Payments 
are to be made to the mother or to a trustee. The court has continu- 
ing jurisdiction over proceedings brought to compel support and may 
increase or decrease the amount, and also has continuing jurisdiction 
to determine custody in accordance with the interests of the child. 

In default of security, when required, instead of committing the 
father to jail, or as a condition of release from jail, the court may 
commit him to the custody of a probation officer, upon such terms 
regarding payments and personal reports as the court may direct. 
One of the most important clauses in the sections relating to pro- 
ceedings to compel sup]3ort states that agreement or compromise 
concerning the support of the child shall be binding upon the mother 

-^Uniform illegitimacy act. drafted hy the National Conference of Commissioners on 
Uniform State Laws, and by it approved and recummended for enactment In all the 
States at its conference at San Francisco, Calif., Aug. 2-8, 1922. 



20 CHILDREN OF ILLEGITIMATE BIRTH 

or child only when adequate provision is fully secured by payment 
or otherwise and when approved by a court having jurisdiction to 
compel support of the child. This safeguard is an evident need in 
many States. 

In 1923 the principles of the uniform act were incorporated into 
the laws of North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Arizona, 
and in 1925 they were adopted in Iowa. Various legal and social 
organizations have been active in educational work to promote public 
recognition of this measure for the reduction of child dependency 
and neglect. It has influenced legislation in States which have not 
adopted it but which have amended their statutes in certain respects. 

Important as is legislation in obtaining justice and opportunity 
for children handicapped by their birth status, the attitude of society 
as a whole, especially of persons engaged in constructive social work, 
is of fundamental importance. The problem will not be dealt with 
adequately until there is more general recognition of the right of the 
child to care and support from his parents, whenever such provision 
is possible, and of the necessity for the most careful and unbiased 
work with each individual case. When the meaning to the individual 
child of birth out of wedlock and the burden that is imposed upon the 
State as a result of this problem are more fully recognized, there will 
be demanded for each child the support and protection to which all 
the children are equally entitled. 

The child-welfare standards adopted by the Washington and 
regional conferences on child Avelfare held under the auspices of the 
Children's Bureau in ISIay, 1919, include a statement of measures that 
may help to give the child born out of wedlock a square deal : 

The child born out of wedlock constitutes a very serious problem, and for 
this reason special safeguards should be provided. 

Save for unusual reasons both parents should be held responsible for the 
child during his minority, and especially should the responsibility of the father 
be emphasized. 

Care of the child by his mother is highly desirable, particularly during the 
nursing months. 

No parent of a child born out of wedlock should be permitted to surrender 
the child outside his own family, save with the consent of a properly designated 
State department or a court of proper jurisdiction. 

Each State should make suitable provision of a humane character for estab- 
lishing paternity and guaranteeing to children born out of wedlock the rights 
naturally belonging to children born in wedlock. The fathers of such children 
should be under the same financial responsibilities and the same legal liabilities 
toward their children as other fathers. The administration of the courts with 
reference to such cases should be so regulated as not only to protect the legal 
rights of the mother and child but also to avoid unnecessary publicity and 
humiliation. 

The treatment of the unmarried mother and her child should include the best 
medical supervision and should be so directed as to afford the widest oppor- 
tunity for wholesome, normal life." 

28 Minimum Standards for Child Welfare, Adopted by the Washington and Regional 
Conferences on Child Welfare. 191S. p. 13. V. S. Children's Buroan Publication No. 62. 
Washington. 1920. 

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