Placing Children

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How Many Women Place Their Children for Adoption?

  • 2% of unmarried women at any age place their child for adoption. (ChildTrends, 1995)
  • The percentage of premarital births placed for adoption has decreased since the 1970s. Analyses of three cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth show the following trend:
    • From 1952 to 1972, 8.7% of all premarital births were placed for adoption.
    • From 1973 to 1981, this percentage fell to 4.1%.
    • From 1982 to 1988, it fell further to 2%. (Bachrach, Stolley, London, 1992)

Who are the Women Who Place Their Children?

  • Less than 3% of white unmarried women and less than 2% of Black unmarried women. (Mosher and Bachrach, 1996)
  • Of Black women with premarital births,
    From 1952 to 1972, 1.5% placed their children for adoption.
    From 1973 to 1981, this percentage fell to .2%
    From 1982 to 1988, it rose to 1.1%.

  • Of White women with premarital births,
    From 1952 to 1972, 19.3% placed their children for adoption.
    From 1973 to 1981, this percentage fell to 7.6%.
    From 1982 to 1988, it fell further to 3.2%. (Bachrach, Stolley, London, 1992)
  • Women who voluntarily place their children for adoption are likely to have greater educational and vocational goals for themselves than those who keep their children. Women making adoption plans often come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. These women come from intact families which are supportive of the placement, and which have not experienced teenage pregnancies by other family members. (Stolley, 1993)
  • Women whose mothers completed at least one year of college were 3 times more likely to place their babies for adoption than women whose mothers did not complete high school. (Bachrach, Stolley & London, 1992)
  • In a study of adoption trends in California, it was found birth mothers who place their children independently tend to be aged 17 to 30 years old, and have no more than a high school education. The majority are not related to the adoptive parents. Many mothers, though, have some contact with the adoptive family, and were involved in the selection of the adoptive parents. (Barth, Brooks, Iyer, 1995)
  • The 1995 National Survey of Family Growth found that 15 percent of recent births to never-married women and 18 percent of those to formerly married were unwanted by the mother at time of conception. (Freundlich, 1998)

What are Influences on the Number of Children Available for Adoption?

  • Declining numbers of women placing children for adoption
    • The decline in the number of women placing their children for adoption is primarily due to the declining numbers of white women placing their children for adoption; rates for minority women who place their children have remained relatively stable. (Bachrach, Stolley, London, 1992)
    • The initial drop in placement rates among white women reflected the increase in abortion rates after the legalization of abortion in 1973. (Bachrach, Stolley, London, 1992)
  • Declining stigma of unwed motherhood
    • The continuing decline in placement rates reflects the diminishing stigma attached to unwed parenthood. (Bachrach, Stolley, London, 1992)
  • Declining numbers of teens placing children for adoption
    • The proportion of teens placing their children for adoption has declined sharply over recent decades. (ChildTrends, 1995)
    • When they become pregnant, very few teens choose to place their children for adoption. In a 1995 survey, 51% of teens that become pregnant give birth; 35% seek abortions; 14% miscarry. Less than 1% choose to place their children for adoption. (ChildTrends, 1995)
    • The age of unmarried mothers has increased with time. In 1970, half of nonmarital births were to teens; by 1993, the highest proportion of unmarried mothers were women in their twenties, a significant change. The birth rate for unmarried teens declined in 1995. Teen mothers, however continued to make up the largest single group of all first births to unmarried women.(Freundlich, 1998)
  • Declining pregnancy rate
    • Pregnancy rates declined by 1 percent for white women and by 5 percent for women of all other races between 1980 to 1991. (NCHS, 1995)
  • Increasing use of contraceptives
    • 4% of never-married women relied on their partners to use condoms in 1982; this number increased to 8% in 1988, and to 14% in 1995 - a more than three-fold increase. (NCHS, 1997)
    • In 1995, 10.7 million women were using female sterilization, 10.4 million were using the birth control pill, 7.9 million used condoms, and 4.2 million were using male sterilization as a contraceptive technique. (NCHS, 1997)
  • Declining abortion rate
    • There has been no research showing that women are choosing to abort their children rather than place these children for adoption. Although the adoption rate has remained relatively steady, nationwide abortion rates have continued to decline since 1990. (Freundlich, 1998)

Are There any Statistics on Birth Fathers?

  • Experts point out that only a very small percentage of birth fathers historically have taken an active part in the decisions surrounding adoption, but some agencies report that in recent years, a quarter or more relinquishments have included active involvement of birth fathers. (Freundlich, 1998)


Bachrach, C.A., Stolley, K.S., and London, K.A. (1992). Relinquishment of premarital births: evidence from the national survey data. Family Planning Perspectives, 24, 27-32 and 48.

Barth, R.P., Brooks, D. and Iyer, S. (1995). Adoptions in California: current demographic profiles and projections through the end of the century. Executive Summary. Berkeley, CA: Child Welfare Research Center.

Fertility, Family Planning, and Women's Health: New Data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. (1997). Washington, DC: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control.

Freundlich, M. (1998). Supply and demand: the forces shaping the future of infant adoption. Adoption Quarterly, 2(1), 13-42.

Moore, K. A., Miller, B.C., Sugland, B.W., Morrison, D.R., Glei, D.A., and Blumenthal, C. (1995). Beginning too soon: adolescent sexual behavior, pregnancy, and parenthood. Executive Summary. Washington, DC: ChildTrends.

Mosher, W.D., and Bachrach, C.A. (1996). Understanding U.S. fertility: continuity and change in the national survey of family growth, 1988-1995. Family Planning Perspectives, 28(1).

Stolley, K.S. (1993). Statistics on adoption in the United States. The Future of Children: Adoption, 3(1), 26-42.

Trends in Pregnancies and Pregnancy Rates: Estimates for the United States, 1980-92. (1995). Washington, DC: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (

Visitor Comments (2)
Adding your comments contributes to the adoption community. Please keep all comments on topic and civil. Visitors are invited to comment and vote for or flag comments based on appropriateness and helpfulness. All comments must adhere to our commenting rules and are subject to moderation.
Allie - 1 year ago
0 0 1
It bothers me that this focuses on birth mothers who are unwed. I want to see statistics on women who are married or have had children as well. I wanted to see recent statistics on birth mothers as a whole. #1
julia - 1 year ago
0 0 1
i think it would be nice if you didn't just give me statistics from the late 19190s and gave me statistics from this year or even last year #2

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