CDC: Nearly Half of U.S. Men Have Fathered a Child

With Father’s Day right around the corner, a new CDC report is painting a picture of fatherhood in the U.S.

According to a national survey of 4,928 men aged 15-44 years, nearly half — 47 percent — reported fathering at least one biological or adopted child. Most dads became fathers in their 20s. About a quarter of dads have never been married.

There were 61 million men in that age range in the U.S. at the time. Interviews for the survey were done between March 2002 and March 2003 in participants’ homes.

The Changing Face of Fatherhood

How Many Kids?

Among men who took the survey, 17 percent reported fathering one child, 16 percent reported fathering two children, and 14 percent reported fathering three or more kids.

Nearly two-thirds — 64 percent — reported having their first child when they were in their 20s. Another 15 percent reported fathering their first child before age 20, and 21 percent reported having their first child at or after age 30.

Men who hadn’t finished high school were more likely to have fathered a child outside of marriage, compared with those with a four-year college degree, the survey shows.

The report also notes that “among men reporting themselves to be homosexual or bisexual, 22 percent have had a biological child.”

Married or Not?

The survey also covered marriages and live-in relationships:

—33 percent have never married or lived with their partner.

—37 percent have had one wife or live-in partner.

—30 percent have had two or more wives or live-in partners.

— About a third of men have been married by age 25; more than 6 in 10 have been married by age 30.

Marrying before 20 was associated with a higher rate of broken marriages a decade later. Among men who married for the first time before age 20, half “had their marriage dissolve within 10 years compared with 17 percent of men who married at 26 years or over,” the report states.

The report shows that of the 61 million U.S. men aged 15-44 in 2002:

— More than half had kids aged 19 and younger.

— More than a third lived with their kids.

— 7 percent didn’t live with their kids.

— 6 percent live with some of their children and not others.

Almost all dads (98 percent) supported the statement, “The rewards of being a parent are worth it despite the cost and work it takes.”

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By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD

SOURCES: CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics: “Fertility, Contraception, and Fatherhood: Data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.” News release, CDC.