Of the past years, there has been a steadily increase in the age at first marriage and a decrease in the age at first sex. The sexual revolution that occurred in the 20th century is the reason for this. Compared to the 20th century where most of the population has had premarital sex, in the 1900s there was almost no unmarried “teenage girl” engaging in premarital sex, only a small percentage.
I say teenage girl because in the 1900s most women were married in their teenage years. This is because that was the time when women were their healthiest and most fertile. One of the reasons for this dramatic change was the Contraception Revolution. This was the introduction of contraception.
This revolution gave women the power of choice, the power to decide on when and whether they wanted kids. The technology of contraception along with education has changed drastically over the years. This is because in the 1900s women weren’t particularly trusting of contraception, they had no idea what it was and with little to no education they preferred not to use it.
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This changed as women began to get an education and became aware of the situation. As education along with rights for women increased, they began to make more of their own decisions and take contraception. Another thing that has changed in a sexual aspect is the increase in the number of sexual partners unmarried women have.
In the 1900s, most women would get married and engage in sexual activities with that one person, their husband. For the small percentage of women who did have sex before marriage it would still be with one partner, presumably their future husband. Compare this to the 20th century and you will see that as time went by the number of sexual partners women had before marriage increased dramatically.
This comes from the term “one night stand”. This is when women have sex with a random person and never see them again, usually moving on to someone else later. The number of partners during marriage also increased, due to cheating. Even with the increase in sexual activity before marriage, teen pregnancy has decreased. This is because of contraception and social norms.
Now in the 20th century women aren’t expected to have children and a lot prefer not to. Children these days are an economic loss. Compared to the 1900s when marriage was expected of women at a young age and children was an economic gain for the family. Despite all of this and the great public concern about the increase in teenage sexual behavior in the recent years, there hasn’t been any attempts to come up with a model to solve this problem.
To answer my question, I looked at two contributing factors. The first one was First Marriage and the second one was Teen Pregnancy. For Marriage, I looked at the differences between the 1900s and the 20th century. For the 1900s, marriage was required of young women (specifically around the ages of 16, give or take).
Getting married at a young age increased the chances of pregnancy. It is the time when women are their most fertile. It also is when a woman is strong enough to bear a child. This increases her chances of surviving child birth. Those who weren’t married by then were looked down on and the longer they waited to get married, the less likely they would ever marry.
Marriage was also a necessity. Getting married was a way for families to come together to exchange and combine family resources. This means that people were more likely to marry someone of a higher standing. In the 1900s, having children was a great way to get free labor and pass on your family’s name. Because of this getting married and having children was an economic gain.
For the 1900s, majority of people lived on farms and needed someone there to help keep it up. What better way than having children. This way you would get all the free labor you needed. Having a lot of children also guaranteed that at least one would survive. In the 1900s, medical technology and care wasn’t as advanced as it is today.
Because of this most children died before reaching the age of 1, so families had a lot of children to make sure some survived into adulthood. For the 20th century, everything is the complete opposite. Marriage isn’t a requirement. No one expects you to get married anymore and because of this marriage is actually pushed back to later years, if one is to get married at all.
It’s also not a necessity and not in the fact that it was a way for families to come together, but in that you don’t have to get married to have sex anymore. In the 1900s, most women preferred to wait till marriage to have sex, but since marriage isn’t a requirement anymore, why wait.
There is also no economic gain. In this day in age, majority of the population do not stay on farms, but in cities, so there is no need for a lot of children to help out. If anything having a lot of children is an economic loss because the more children you have, the more you have to spend of them. Since we live in cities, having too many children takes up a lot of space.
This is why most usually have around one or two children, but there are exceptions. For those who make a lot of money or have family businesses they want to keep up, they have more children to guarantee one of them will take over the family and carry on the family name. One thing that the 1900s and the 20th century have in common is that getting married is a medical advantage. Getting married guarantees you will have someone there to take care of you in your older years.
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