Another Time-Honored Institution in Decline
"A case of wife or death" the shotgun wedding usually is not and probably seldom was, as evocative and endearing as the idea that "the father of the pregnant girl would force the baby's daddy to marry his daughter at gunpoint" may be. Rather, the idea that the shotgun wedding is "a marriage that is arranged very quickly and suddenly because the woman is pregnant" is more to the point.
Both sets of my "Greatest Generation" grandparents began their long, successful marriages in this manner, before my grandfathers were sent off to fight and possibly die in FDR's wars. I'm sure they were not the only ones. Saint-like virtue is required of a man to lay down is life without ever having gotten laid.
Hope Yen's hopeless article reports that "the share of unmarried couples who opted to have 'shotgun cohabitations' — moving in together after a pregnancy — surpassed 'shotgun marriages' for the first time over the last decade." The statistics are more dramatic, with "18.1 percent of all single women who became pregnant [having] opted to move in with their boyfriends before the child was born... compared to 5.3 percent who chose a post-conception marriage" and the fact that "[a]s recently as the early 1990s, 25 percent of such couples got married."
Ms. Yen ends her article pointing to the "growing trend of fragile families in which cohabitating parents may be more likely to break up," noting that "that only about half of mothers who were cohabiting when their child was born were still in relationships with the biological father five years later."
Of course, the ball was set in motion at least a half-century ago, as noted earlier on these pages, "By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father" — Humanæ Vitæ Was Right.