The definition of a “family” has expanded in recent years to include all different situations for raising children—including female-only households that wouldn’t have it any other way. Advances in fertility and technology, along with more available options like donor sperm and “single-friendly” adoptions, have enabled more and more women to have babies on their own.

Tradition used to dictate that women had to wait for “Mr. Right,” get married, and then have children. These days, increasing numbers of women are taking matters into their own hands when the time is right for them and having children on their own.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the birth rate for unmarried women (widowed, divorced, and single) in 2007 was 80 percent higher than it was in 1980, and increased 20 percent between 2002 and 2007. The prevalence of divorce in this country has made single parenting more common and also helped to reduce its stigma.

The growing population of women who describe themselves as “single by choice” tend to be older, with college or advanced degrees, successful careers, and who have carefully planned for the decision to parent alone. They typically have the financial resources (in vitro fertilization, combined with the necessary fertility drugs and treatments, can cost anywhere from $12,000-$20,000) and a strong network of family and friends to offer support.

By the time they turn 30, about two-thirds of women in the US have had a baby. About 60 percent of single-by-choice moms become pregnant through an anonymous sperm donor, with approximately 20 percent choosing adoption. The other 20 percent usually achieve pregnancy through a known donor.

These women come from all backgrounds, ethnic groups, lifestyles, and religions, but they have one thing in common: they took on the joys and responsibilities of parenting alone.


  • A growing number of women are becoming single parents.
  • These women can be described as “single by choice.”
  • About two-thirds of single American women have had a baby by the time they turn 30.
  • Typically, they become pregnant through anonymous or known donors, or they adopt.

Last reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, PhD. Review Date: September 2020


  1. Choosing Single Motherhood.
  2. Single Mothers by Choice. Adoption.
  3. National Center for Health Statistics. Social and Economic Characteristics of Currently Unmarried Women With a Recent Birth: 2011
  4. The National Marriage Project. Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America.


  1. I’m with Kathy on this. I studied psychology of family dynamics as an undergrad and am now a family medicine physician. The article does not mention ANY substantial findings that positively correlates single parenting with good emotional/psychological health. This article only sites the fact that there is less stigma for WOMEN who want to rear a child without a father. It doesn’t mention the effects on a child’s neurological development sans a good male authority figure. Studies show daughters without a father (or an uninvolved father) are more promiscuous and have lower self esteem. Sons of single moms never get to experience rites of passage that fathers offer. Without a strong stable male in their lives these boys also have higher chance of falling through the cracks of society. I’m not saying it holds true for all children and all single moms, but I myself would choose to not gamble with my childrens’ upbringing. Especially in this day and age when porn is readily available on the internet, pedophiles roam websites pretending to be children, STD’s (or any diseases) are inevitable, public school bullying is common, student loan debt is crushing us and teen pregnancy is still high.
    I’m 38 and in a great profession, but I DO NOT have kids nor will I jeopardize my baby’s life for my own selfish need to be a parent. I have many patients who are single parents and almost all of them are having huge problems disciplining their children and feel they need more support.
    I believe this article is merely trying to encourage single moms to be proud strong women, and rise to the challenge. If you have no choice….ie: already pregnant or abusive relationship, etc……..then by all means YES do your best and don’t be discouraged.
    If you are in a situation similar to mine, ask yourself “who can I take care of to fulfill my mothering desire?” (ie: friends’ children, nieces, nephews, dogs, cats, neighbors, etc) Being part of a child’s life who really needs it is a hundred times better for society (and your sense of self) than to bring an unborn child into the world.


      If you’re interested…here is an article which examines MANY sources (other studies) that support the need for the biological father present in child’s home.

  2. I’m much in disagreement with you. I had a good father, and I had a friend who only had a mother, and the difference in our lives was huge. She was like a ball in the high weeds for much of her life. It’s a huge disadvantage not to have a father, and to pretend that it doesn’t make any difference is a misrepresentation of the highest order. I would hate to mislead people into going down this primrose path thinking their child will be just fine. Yes, it DOES make a difference. A GOOD father makes a lifetime impact. I’m begging you not to trivialize this.

    1. It’s amazing how many people think that their own personal experience proves anything other than that there are exceptions. Not to mention that this article is referring to mothers who choose to be single, and thus are often older with a good income and a stable life, and have planned carefully for this.


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