HOME

TheInfoList




Legitimacy, in traditional Western
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
, is the status of a
child Biologically, a child (plural children) is a human being between the stages of childbirth, birth and puberty, or between the Development of the human body, developmental period of infancy and puberty. The legal definition of ''child'' generall ...

child
born to parents who are legally
married Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people called spouses. It establishes rights and obligations between them, as well as between them and their children, and between them ...

married
to each other, and of a child
conceived
conceived
before the parents obtain a legal
divorce Divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage) is the optional process of terminating a marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people calle ...

divorce
. Conversely, ''illegitimacy '' (or ''bastardy'') has been the status of a child born outside marriage, such a child being known as a bastard, a love child, a natural child, or illegitimate, when such a child has been differentiated from other children. In
Scots law Scots law () is the legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems A system is a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified ...
, the terms natural son and natural daughter bear the same implications. The importance of legitimacy has decreased considerably in Western countries with the increasing economic independence of women, the
sexual revolution The sexual revolution, also known as a time of sexual liberation, was a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the United States from the 1960s to the 1980s ...
of the 1960s and 1970s, the fall of
totalitarian 259x259px, Democracy Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit (2020): perceived authoritarian regimes in red, democracies in green, and color intensity ≈ regime intensity Totalitarianism is a form of government and a political system that prohi ...
regimes, and the declining influence of Christian churches on family life. Births outside marriage now represent the majority in many countries of Western Europe and in many former European colonies. In many Western-derived cultures, stigma based on parents' marital status, and use of the word "bastard", are now considered offensive.


Law

England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
's
Statute of Merton The Statute of Merton or Provisions of Merton (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. ...
(1235) stated, regarding illegitimacy: "He is a bastard that is born before the marriage of his parents." This definition also applied to situations when a child's parents could not marry, as when one or both were already married or when the relationship was incestuous. The Poor Law of 1576 formed the basis of English bastardy law. Its purpose was to punish a bastard child's mother and putative father, and to relieve the parish from the cost of supporting mother and child. "By an act of 1576 (18 Elizabeth C. 3), it was ordered that bastards should be supported by their putative fathers, though bastardy orders in the quarter sessions date from before this date. If the genitor could be found, then he was put under very great pressure to accept responsibility and to maintain the child." Under
English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Blac ...
, a bastard could not
inherit Inherit may refer to: * Inheritance, passing on of property after someone's death * Heredity, passing of genetic traits to offspring * Inheritance (object-oriented programming), way to compartmentalize and re-use computer code * Inherit (album), '' ...

inherit
real property In England, English common law, real property, real estate, realty, or immovable property is land which is the property of some person and all structures (also called Land improvement, improvements or Fixture (property law), fixtures) integr ...
and could not be legitimized by the subsequent marriage of father to mother. There was one exception: when his father subsequently married his mother, and an older illegitimate son (a "bastard eignè") took possession of his father's lands after his death, he would pass the land on to his own heirs on his death, as if his possession of the land had been retroactively converted into true ownership. A younger non-bastard brother (a "mulier puisnè") would have no claim to the land. There were many "natural children" of
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
's monarchy granted positions which founded prominent families. In the 14th century,
Robert II of Scotland Robert II (2 March 1316 – 19 April 1390) was King of Scots The monarch of Scotland was the head of state of the Kingdom of Scotland. According to tradition, the first King of Scots was Kenneth I MacAlpin (), who founded the sovereign st ...
gifted one of his illegitimate sons estates in Bute, founding the Stewarts of Bute, and similarly a natural son of
Robert III of Scotland Robert III (c. 13374 April 1406), born John Stewart, was King of Scots from 1390 to his death. He was known primarily as the Earl of Carrick before ascending the throne aged around 53 years. He was the eldest son of Robert II of Scotland, Robert ...
was ancestral to the Shaw Stewarts of Greenock. In
Scots law Scots law () is the legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems A system is a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified ...
an illegitimate child, a "natural son" or "natural daughter", would be legitimated by the subsequent marriage of his parents, provided they were free to marry at the date of the conception. The Legitimation (Scotland) Act 1968 extended legitimation by the subsequent marriage of the parents to children conceived when their parents were not free to marry, but this was repealed in 2006 by the amendment of section 1 of the Law Reform (Parent and Child) (Scotland) Act 1986 (as amended in 2006) which abolished the status of illegitimacy stating that "(1) No person whose status is governed by Scots law shall be illegitimate ...". The ''
Legitimacy Act 1926 The Legitimacy Act 1926 was an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The purpose of the Legitimacy Act 1926 was to amend the law relating to children born out of wedlock. Act

The fundamental pr ...
'' of England and Wales legitimized the birth of a child if the parents subsequently married each other, provided that they had not been married to someone else in the meantime. The ''
Legitimacy Act 1959 The Legitimacy Act 1959 was an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was repealed by the Family Law Reform Act 1987. Act Prior to the passing of the Act, legitimacy was governed by the Legitimacy ...
'' extended the legitimization even if the parents had married others in the meantime and applied it to
putative marriage A putative marriage is an apparently valid marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a culturally recognised union between people, called spouses, that establishes rights and obligations between them, as well ...
s which the parents incorrectly believed were valid. Neither the 1926 nor 1959 Acts changed the laws of
succession to the British throne Succession to the British throne is determined by descent, sex, legitimacy, and religion. Under common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and sim ...
and succession to
peerage A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary title Hereditary titles, in a general sense, are nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societi ...
and baronetcy titles. In Scotland children legitimated by the subsequent marriage of their parents have always been entitled to succeed to peerages and baronetcies and The Legitimation (Scotland) Act 1968 extended this right to children conceived when their parents were not free to marry. The ''Family Law Reform Act'' 1969 (c. 46) allowed a bastard to inherit on the
intestacy Intestacy is the condition of the estate Estate or The Estate may refer to: Law * Estate (law), a term in common law for a person's property, entitlements and obligations * Estates of the realm, a broad social category in the histories of cert ...
of his parents. In
canon Canon or Canons may refer to: Places * Canon, Georgia Canon is a city in Franklin County, Georgia, Franklin and Hart County, Georgia, Hart counties in the U.S. state of Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia. The population was 804 at the 2010 census. His ...
and in
civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
, the offspring of putative marriages have also been considered legitimate. Since December 2003 in
England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows ...

England and Wales
, April 2002 in
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
and May 2006 in
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
, an unmarried father has parental responsibility if he is listed on the
birth certificate A birth certificate is a vital record Austrian marriage license (duplicate) from 1854. Vital records are records of life events kept under governmental authority, including birth certificates, marriage licenses (or marriage certificates), separati ...

birth certificate
. In the United States, in the early 1970s a series of
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...

Supreme Court
decisions held that most common-law disabilities imposed upon illegitimacy were invalid as violations of the
Equal Protection Clause The Equal Protection Clause is part of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution The Fourteenth Amendment (Amendment XIV) to the United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is ...
of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution The Fourteenth Amendment (Amendment XIV) to the United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally com ...
. Still, children born out of wedlock may not be eligible for certain federal benefits (e.g., automatic
naturalization Naturalization (or naturalisation) is the legal act or process by which a non-citizen of a country may acquire citizenship Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn i ...
when the father becomes a US citizen) unless the child has been legitimized in the appropriate jurisdiction. Many other countries have legislatively abolished any legal disabilities of a child born out of wedlock. In
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
, legal reforms regarding illegitimacy began in the 1970s, but it was only in the 21st century that the principle of equality was fully upheld (through Act no. 2002-305 of 4 March 2002, removing mention of "illegitimacy" — ''filiation légitime'' and ''filiation naturelle''; and through law no. 2009-61 of 16 January 2009). In 2001, France was forced by the
European Court of Human Rights The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR or ECtHR), also known as the Strasbourg Court, is an international court International courts are formed by treaties A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in intern ...

European Court of Human Rights
to change several laws that were deemed discriminatory, and in 2013 the Court ruled that these changes must also be applied to children born before 2001. In some countries, the family law itself explicitly states that there must be equality between the children born outside and inside marriage: in Bulgaria, for example, the new 2009 Family Code lists "equality of the born during the matrimony, out of matrimony and of the adopted children" as one of the principles of family law. The ''European Convention on the Legal Status of Children Born out of Wedlock'' came into force in 1978. Countries which ratify it must ensure that children born outside marriage are provided with legal rights as stipulated in the text of this convention. The convention was ratified by the UK in 1981 and by Ireland in 1988. In later years, the inheritance rights of many illegitimate children have improved, and changes of laws have allowed them to inherit properties. More recently, the laws of England have been changed to allow illegitimate children to inherit
entail In English common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ' is the most-used legal dictiona ...
ed property, over their legitimate brothers and sisters.


Contemporary situation

Despite the decreasing legal relevance of illegitimacy, an important exception may be found in the
nationality law Nationality law is the law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment ...
s of many countries, which do not apply ''
jus sanguinis ( , , ; 'right of blood') is a principle of nationality law Nationality law is the law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unifi ...
'' (nationality by citizenship of a parent) to children born out of wedlock, particularly in cases where the child's connection to the country lies only through the father. This is true, for example, of the United States, and its constitutionality was upheld in 2001 by the
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...

Supreme Court
in ''
Nguyen v. INS ''Nguyen v. INS'', 533 U.S. 53 (2001), was a United States Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America The United States of America (USA) ...
''. In the UK, the policy was changed so that children born after 1 July 2006 could receive British citizenship from their father if their parents were unmarried at the time of the child's birth; illegitimate children born before this date cannot receive British citizenship through their father. Legitimacy also continues to be relevant to hereditary titles, with only legitimate children being admitted to the
line of succession An order of succession or right of succession is the line of individuals entitled to hold a high office when it becomes vacated such as head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae ...
. Some monarchs, however, have succeeded to the throne despite the controversial status of their legitimacy. For example,
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to i ...

Elizabeth I
succeeded to the throne though she was legally held illegitimate as a result of her parents' marriage having been annulled after her birth. Her older half-sister
Mary I Mary I (18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558), also known as Mary Tudor, and as "Bloody Mary" by her Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to ...
had acceded to the throne before her in a similar circumstance: her parents' marriage had been annulled in order to allow her father to marry Elizabeth's mother.
Annulment Annulment is a legal procedure Procedural law, adjective law, in some jurisdictions referred to as remedial law, or rules of court comprises the rules by which a court hears and determines what happens in civil procedure, civil, lawsuit, criminal ...
of marriage does not currently change the status of legitimacy of children born to the couple during their
putative marriage A putative marriage is an apparently valid marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a culturally recognised union between people, called spouses, that establishes rights and obligations between them, as well ...
, ''i.e.'', between their marriage ceremony and the legal annulment of their marriage. For example, canon 1137 of the
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Roman Catholic Church
's Code of Canon Law specifically affirms the legitimacy of a child born to a marriage that is declared null following the child's birth. The Catholic Church is also changing its attitude toward unwed mothers and baptism of the children. In criticizing the priests who refused to baptize out-of-wedlock children,
Pope Francis Pope Francis ( la, Franciscus; it, Francesco; es, link=, Francisco; born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 17 December 1936) is the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State since 2013. Francis is the first pope to be a member ...

Pope Francis
argued that the mothers had done the right thing by giving life to the child and should not be shunned by the church:


Nonmarital births

The proportion of children born outside marriage is rising in all EU countries, North America, and Australia. In Europe, besides the low levels of fertility rates and the delay of motherhood, another factor that now characterizes fertility is the growing percentage of births outside marriage. In the
EU
EU
, this phenomenon has been on the rise in recent years in almost every country; and in seven countries, mostly in northern Europe, it already accounts for the majority of births. In 2009, 41% of children born in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
were born to unmarried mothers, a significant increase from the 5% of half a century earlier. That includes 73% of non-Hispanic black children, 53% of Hispanic children (of all races), and 29% of non-Hispanic white children. In April 2009, the
National Center for Health Statistics The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) is a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, which provides statistical information to guide actions and policies to improve the public health Public health has been defined a ...
announced that nearly 40 percent of American infants born in 2007 were born to an
unwed mother A single parent is a person who lives with a child or children and who does not have a spouse or live-in partner. Reasons for becoming a single parent include divorce, break-up, abandonment, death of the other parent, childbirth by a single pers ...
; that of 4.3 million children, 1.7 million were born to unmarried parents, a 25 percent increase from 2002. Most births to teenagers in the USA (86% in 2007) are nonmarital; in 2007, 60% of births to women 20–24, and nearly one-third of births to women 25–29, were nonmarital. In 2007, teenagers accounted for just 23% of nonmarital births, down steeply from 50% in 1970. In 2014, 42% of all births in the 28 EU countries were nonmarital. In the following European countries the majority of births occur outside marriage:
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#N ...

Iceland
(69.9% in 2016),
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
(59.7% in 2016),
Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg, Република България, links=no, Republika Bǎlgariya, ), is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia ...

Bulgaria
(58.6% in 2016),
Slovenia Slovenia ( ; sl, Slovenija ), officially the Republic of Slovenia (Slovene: , abbr.: ''RS''), is a country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, l ...

Slovenia
(58.6% in 2016),
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the Norwegian language Norwegian (Norwegian: ''norsk'') is a Nort ...

Norway
(56.2% in 2016),
Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden ...

Estonia
(56.1% in 2016),
Sweden Sweden ( sv, Sverige ), officially the Kingdom of Sweden ( sv, links=no, Konungariket Sverige ), is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that ...

Sweden
(54.9% in 2016),
Denmark Denmark ( da, Danmark, ) is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), hu ...

Denmark
(54% in 2016),
Portugal Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt, República Portuguesa, links=yes ), is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who ...

Portugal
(52.8% in 2016),
Belgium Belgium ( nl, België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe. The region's countries and territories vary depending on cont ...

Belgium
(50,6% in 2015 ), and the
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...

Netherlands
(50.4% in 2016). The proportion of nonmarital births is also approaching half in the
Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name Czechia and formerly known as Bohemia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and Slovakia to ...
(49.0% in 2017), the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
(48.2% as of 2017),
Hungary Hungary ( hu, Magyarország ) is a in . Spanning of the , it is bordered by to the north, to the northeast, to the east and southeast, to the south, and to the southwest and to the west. Hungary has a population of 10 million, mostl ...

Hungary
(46.7% as of 2016),
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
(45.9% as of 2016),
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and is defined by the Gulf of B ...

Finland
(44.9% as of 2016),
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
(42.1% as of 2015). Only six EU countries (
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...

Greece
,
Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = "Lijepa naša domovino ''Lijepa naša domovino'' (; ) is the national anthem A national anthem is a song that ...

Croatia
,
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially called the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or poli ...

Cyprus
,
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...

Poland
,
Lithuania Lithuania (; lt, Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublika, links=no), is a country in the Baltic region The terms Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Rim countries (or simply Baltic Rim), and the Baltic Sea countr ...
and
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest ...

Italy
) have a percentage of nonmarital births below 30%. The lowest proportions of births outside marriage, among EU countries in 2017, were found in Greece (10.3%), Croatia (19.9%) and Cyprus (20.3%). The prevalence of births to unmarried women varies not only between different countries, but also between different geographical areas of the same country: for example, in Germany, there are very strong differences between the regions of former
West Germany West Germany is the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG; german: Bundesrepublik Deutschland , BRD) between its formation on 23 May 1949 and the German reunification German reunification (german: Deutsche Wieder ...
and
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current ...
with a non-religious majority. Significantly more children are born out of wedlock in eastern Germany than in western Germany. In 2012, in eastern Germany 61.6% of births were to unmarried women, while in western Germany only 28.4% were. In the UK, in 2014, 59.4% of births were nonmarital in
North East of England North East England is one of nine official regions of England at the first level of ITL (UK), ITL for Office for National Statistics, statistical purposes. The region covers an area of and in 2019 had a recorded population of nearly 2.7milli ...
, 58.9% in
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
, 54.2% in
North West England North West England is one of nine official and consists of the of , , , and . The North West had a population of 7,052,000 in 2011. It is the in the United Kingdom, after the and . The largest settlements are and . Subdivisions The o ...

North West England
, 52.4% in
Yorkshire and the Humber Yorkshire and the Humber is one of nine official regions of England The regions, formerly known as the government office regions, are the highest tier of sub-national division in England England is a that is part of the . It shar ...
, 52% in
East Midlands The East Midlands is one of nine official regions of England The regions, formerly known as the government office regions, are the highest tier of sub-national division in England England is a that is part of the . It shares lan ...
, 50.8% in
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
, 50.4% in
West MidlandsWest Midlands may refer to: Places * West Midlands (region), a region of the United Kingdom **West Midlands (county), the metropolitan county in the West Midlands region ** West Midlands conurbation, the large conurbation in the West Midlands region ...
, 48.5% in
South West England South West England is one of nine official regions of England The regions, formerly known as the government office regions, are the highest tier of sub-national division in England, established in 1994. Between 1994 and 2011, nine region ...
, 45.5% in
East of England The East of England is one of the nine official regions of England. This region was created in 1994 and was adopted for statistics purposes from 1999. It includes the ceremonial counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, ...
, 43.2% in
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
, 42.9% in
South East England South East England is one of the nine official regions of England at the ITL 1 statistical regions of England, first level of International Territorial Level, ITL for Statistics, statistical purposes. It consists of the counties of england, ...
, and 35.7% in
London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...

London
. In France, in 2012, 66.9% of births were nonmarital in
Poitou-Charentes Poitou-Charentes (; oc, Peitau-Charantas; Poitevin-Saintongese: ) is a former Regions of France, administrative region on the south-west coast of France. It is part of the new region Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It comprises four departments of France, de ...

Poitou-Charentes
, while only 46.6% were in (which contains
Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,175,601 residents , in an area of more than . Since the 17th century, Paris ha ...

Paris
). One of the reasons for the lower prevalence of nonmarital births in the metropolis is the high number of immigrants from conservative world regions. In Canada, in
Quebec ) , image_shield=Armoiries du Québec.svg , image_flag=Flag of Quebec.svg , coordinates= , AdmittanceDate=July 1, 1867 , AdmittanceOrder=1st, with New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , ...

Quebec
, the majority of births since 1995 onwards have been outside marriage. As of 2015, 63% of births were outside marriage in Quebec. In the EU, the average percentage of nonmarital births has risen steadily in recent years, from 27.4% in 2000 to 40% in 2012. Traditionally conservative Catholic countries in the EU now also have substantial proportions of nonmarital births, as of 2016 (except where otherwise stated):
Portugal Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt, República Portuguesa, links=yes ), is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who ...

Portugal
(52.8% ),
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
(45.9%),
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
(41.7%),
Luxembourg Luxembourg ( ; lb, Lëtzebuerg ; french: link=no, Luxembourg; german: link=no, Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, ; french: link=no, Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ; german: link=no, Großherzogtum Luxemburg is a landlocked ...

Luxembourg
(40.7%)
Slovakia Slovakia (; sk, Slovensko ), officially the Slovak Republic ( sk, Slovenská republika, links=no ), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to th ...

Slovakia
(40.2%),
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
(36.5%),
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially known as the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ) and formerly Melita, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies south of Italy, east of Tunisi ...

Malta
(31.8%). To a certain degree,
religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology ...

religion
(the religiosity of the population - see
Religion in Europe Religion in Europe has been a major influence on today's society, art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bi ...

Religion in Europe
) correlates with the proportion of nonmarital births (e.g., Greece, Cyprus, Croatia have a low percentage of births outside marriage), but this is not always the case: Portugal (52.8% in 2016) is among the most religious countries in Europe. The percentage of first-born children born out of wedlock is considerably higher (by roughly 10%, for the EU), as marriage often takes place after the first baby has arrived. For example, for the Czech Republic, whereas the total nonmarital births are less than half, 47.7%, (third quarter of 2015) the percentage of first-born outside marriage is more than half, 58.2%.
Latin America * ht, Amerik Latin, link=no * pt, América Latina, link=no , image = Latin America (orthographic projection).svg , area = , population = ( est.) , density = , ethnic_groups = , ethnic_groups_year = 2018 , ethnic ...

Latin America
has the highest rates of non-marital childbearing in the world (55–74% of all children in this region are born to unmarried parents). In most countries in this traditionally Catholic region, children born outside marriage are now the norm. Recent figures from Latin America show non-marital births to be 74% in
Colombia Colombia ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by conv ...

Colombia
, 70% in
Paraguay Paraguay (; ), officially the Republic of Paraguay ( es, República del Paraguay, links=no; gn, Tetã Paraguái, links=no), is a country in South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively sma ...

Paraguay
, 69% in
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = Seal (device), National seal , national_mott ...

Peru
, 63% in the
Dominican Republic The Dominican Republic ( ; es, República Dominicana, ) is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island, which it shares with ...

Dominican Republic
, 58% in
Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America South America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...

Argentina
, 55% in
Mexico Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organi ...

Mexico
. In
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 mill ...

Brazil
, non-marital births increased to 65.8% in 2009, up from 56.2% in 2000. In
Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be described as the southern ...

Chile
, non-marital births increased to 70.7% in 2013, up from 48.3% in 2000. Even in the early 1990s, the phenomenon was very common in Latin America. For example, in 1993, out-of-wedlock births in
Mexico Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organi ...

Mexico
were 41.5%, in
Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be described as the southern ...

Chile
43.6%, in
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
45.8%, in
Costa Rica Costa Rica (, ; ; literally "Rich Coast"), officially the Republic of Costa Rica ( es, República de Costa Rica), is a country in Central America Central America ( es, América Central, , ''Centroamérica'' ) is a region of the Amer ...

Costa Rica
48.2%, in
Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America South America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...

Argentina
52.7%, in
Belize Belize () is a Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole Antillean Creole (Antillean French Creole, Kreyol, Kwéyòl, Patois) is a French-based creole, which is primari ...

Belize
58.1%, in
El Salvador , national_anthem = '' Himno Nacional de El Salvador''( en, "National Anthem of El Salvador") , image_map = El Salvador (orthographic projection).svg , image_map2 = , capital = San Salvador , coordinates = , largest_city = San Salvador ...

El Salvador
73%, in
Suriname Suriname () or Surinam, officially known as the Republic of Suriname ( nl, Republiek Suriname ), is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a rela ...

Suriname
66% and in
Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several ...

Panama
80%. Out-of-wedlock births are less common in Asia: in 1993 the rate in
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
was 1.4%; in
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
, 3.1%; in
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

China
, 5.6%; in
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan (, ; uz, Ozbekiston, italic=yes, ), officially the Republic of Uzbekistan ( uz, Ozbekiston Respublikasi, italic=yes), is a doubly landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, ter ...

Uzbekistan
, 6.4%; in
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
, 21%; in
Kyrgyzstan russian: Киргизская Республика, Kirgizskaya Respublika , image_flag = Flag of Kyrgyzstan.svg , image_coat = Emblem of Kyrgyzstan.svg , symbol_type = Emblem , motto = " ...

Kyrgyzstan
, 24%. However, in the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
, the out-of-wedlock birth rate was 37% in 2008–9, which skyrocketed to 52.1% by 2015.


Covert illegitimacy

Covert illegitimacy is a situation which arises when someone who is presumed to be a child's father (or mother) is in fact not the biological father (or mother). Frequencies as high as 30% are sometimes assumed in the media, but research by sociologist Michael Gilding traced these overestimates back to an informal remark at a 1972 conference.Philipp EE (1973) "Discussion: moral, social and ethical issues". In: Wolstenholme GEW, Fitzsimons DW, eds. ''Law and ethics of AID and embryo transfer''. Ciba Foundation symposium. Vol 17. London: Associated Scientific 63–66 The detection of unsuspected illegitimacy can occur in the context of medical genetic screening, in genetic family name research, and in immigration testing. Such studies show that covert illegitimacy is in fact less than 10% among the sampled African populations, less than 5% among the sampled Native American and Polynesian populations, less than 2% of the sampled Middle Eastern population, and generally 1%-2% among European samples.


Causes for rise in nonmarital births

The rise in illegitimacy noted in Britain throughout the eighteenth century has been associated with the rise of new employment opportunities for women, making them less dependent upon a husband's earnings. However, the
Marriage Act 1753 The Clandestine Marriages Act 1753, long title "An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage", popularly known as Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act (citation 26 Geo. II. c. 33), was the first statutory legislation in England and Wales E ...
sought to curb this practice, by combining the spousals and nuptials; and by the start of the 19th century,
social convention A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted wikt:standard, standards, norm (philosophy), norms, social norms, or wikt:criterion, criteria, often taking the form of a custom. In a social context, a convention may retain the ...
prescribed that brides be virgins at marriage, and illegitimacy became more socially discouraged, especially during the
Victorian era In the history of the United Kingdom The history of the United Kingdom began in the early eighteenth century with the Treaty of Union A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international l ...
. Later in the 20th century, the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s started to reverse this trend, with an increase in cohabitation and alternative family formation. Elsewhere in Europe and Latin America, the increase in nonmarital births from the late 20th century on has been linked to secularization, enhanced women's status, and the fall of authoritarian political regimes. Before the fall of communist regimes in Europe, they had encouraged women's participation in the workforce but had discouraged free choice regarding personal life, with the family being tightly controlled by the state. After the fall of those regimes, the population was given more choices on how to organize their personal life; in former East Germany, the rate of births outside marriage increased dramatically: as of 2012, 61.6% of births there were outside marriage. Right-wing regimes such as those of
Francoist Spain Francoist Spain ( es, España franquista) or the Francoist dictatorship ( es, dictadura franquista, links=no), was the period of history of Spain, Spanish history between 1939 and 1975, when Francisco Franco ruled Spain with the title ''Caudil ...
and Portugal's '' Estado Novo'' also fell, leading to the liberalization of society. In Spain, important legal changes throughout the 1970s and 1980s included legalization of
divorce Divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage) is the optional process of terminating a marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people calle ...

divorce
, decriminalization of
adultery Adultery (from Latin ''adulterium'') is extramarital sex that is considered objectionable on social, religious, moral, or legal grounds. Although the Human sexual activity, sexual activities that constitute adultery vary, as well as the social ...

adultery
, introduction of
gender equality Gender equality, also known as sexual equality or equality of the sexes, is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing d ...

gender equality
in
family law Family law (also called matrimonial law or the ''law of domestic relations'') is an area of the law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to for ...
, and removal of the ban on
contraception Birth control, also known as contraception, anticonception, and fertility control, is a method or device used to prevent pregnancy Pregnancy, also known as gestation, is the time during which one or more offspring In biology, offsp ...
. In many countries there has been a dissociation between marriage and fertility, with the two no longer being closely associated—with births to unmarried couples, as well as married couples, becoming more common and more socially acceptable. Contributions to these societal changes have been made by the weakening of social and legal norms that regulate peoples' personal lives and relations, especially in regard to marriage, secularization and decreased church control of reproduction, increased participation of women in the labor force, changes in the meaning of marriage, risk reduction, individualism, changing views on
female sexuality Human female sexuality encompasses a broad range of behaviors and processes, including female sexual identity and sexual behavior, the physiological Physiology (; ) is the scientific study of functions and mechanisms in a living system. As ...
, and availability of
contraception Birth control, also known as contraception, anticonception, and fertility control, is a method or device used to prevent pregnancy Pregnancy, also known as gestation, is the time during which one or more offspring In biology, offsp ...
. New concepts have emerged, such as that of
reproductive rights Reproductive rights are legal right Natural rights and legal rights are the two basic types of rights Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental norma ...
, though these concepts have not been accepted by all cultures. Under the notions of reproductive and sexual rights, individuals—not the state, church, community, etc.—shall decide whether and when individuals shall have children, their number and spacing, the circumstances under which individuals will or will not be sexually active, and their choice of intimate partners and type of relationship. It is argued that in some places where the control of the church (especially the
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Roman Catholic Church
) was traditionally very strong, the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s have led to a negative reaction of the population against the lifestyles promoted by the church. One of the explanations of the current high rates of unmarried cohabitation in
Quebec ) , image_shield=Armoiries du Québec.svg , image_flag=Flag of Quebec.svg , coordinates= , AdmittanceDate=July 1, 1867 , AdmittanceOrder=1st, with New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , ...

Quebec
is that the traditionally strong social control of the church and the Catholic doctrine over people's private relations and sexual morality has led the population to rebel against traditional and conservative social values; since 1995 the majority of births in this province are outside marriage, and as of 2015, in Quebec, 63% of children were born to unmarried women. The past few decades have seen decreased marriage rates in most Western countries, and this decrease has been accompanied by increased emergence of non-traditional family forms. Average marriage rates across
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Économiques, OCDE) is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 38 member countries, founded in 1961 to st ...

OECD
countries have fallen from 8.1 marriages per 1,000 people in 1970 to 5.0 in 2009. Research on the situation in Bulgaria has concluded that


History

Certainty of paternity has been considered important in a wide range of eras and cultures, especially when inheritance and citizenship were at stake, making the tracking of a man's estate and genealogy a central part of what defined a "legitimate" birth. The ancient
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
dictum, "'' Mater semper certa est''" ("The dentity of themother is always certain", while the father is not), emphasized the dilemma. In English
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
, Justice
Edward Coke Sir Edward Coke ( "cook", formerly ; 1 February 1552 – 3 September 1634) was an English , judge, and politician who is considered the greatest jurist of the and eras. Born into an upper-class family, Coke was educated at , before leavin ...

Edward Coke
in 1626 promulgated the "Four Seas Rule" (''extra quatuor maria'') asserting that, absent impossibility of the father being fertile, there was a
presumption of paternityPresumption of paternity in paternity law Paternity may refer to: *Father A father is the male parent of a child. Besides the paternal bonds of a father to his children, the father may have a parental, legal, and social relationship with the ch ...
that a married woman's child was her husband's child. That presumption could be questioned, though courts generally sided with the presumption, thus expanding the range of the presumption to a Seven Seas Rule". But it was only with the
Marriage Act 1753 The Clandestine Marriages Act 1753, long title "An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage", popularly known as Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act (citation 26 Geo. II. c. 33), was the first statutory legislation in England and Wales E ...
that a formal and public marriage ceremony at civil law was required, whereas previously marriage had a safe haven if celebrated in an
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christianity, Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation. Adherents of Anglicanism are called ''Anglicans''; t ...

Anglican
church. Still, many "clandestine" marriages occurred. In many societies, people born out of wedlock did not have the same rights of
inheritance Inheritance is the practice of passing on private property Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities. Private property is distinguishable from public property Public property i ...

inheritance
as those within it, and in some societies, even the same
civil right Civil and political rights are a class of rights Rights are legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system ...
s. In the United Kingdom and the United States, as late as the 1960s and in certain social strata even up to today, nonmarital birth has carried a
social stigma Social stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People ma ...
.Flora Armitage, ''The Desert and the Stars: A Biography of Lawrence of Arabia'', p. 42. In previous centuries unwed mothers were forced by social pressure to give their children up for
adoption Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting Parenting or child rearing promotes and supports the physical fitness, physical, emotional, Social change, social, and intellectual development of a child from infant, infancy to ...

adoption
. In other cases nonmarital children have been reared by
grandparent Grandparents are the parents of a person's father or mother – paternal or maternal. Every sexually-reproducing living organism who is not a genetic chimera has a maximum of four genetics, genetic grandparents, eight genetic great-grandparents ...
s or married
relative Relative may refer to: General use *Kinship and family, the principle binding the most basic social units society. If two people are connected by circumstances of birth, they are said to be ''relatives'' Philosophy *Relativism, the concept that p ...

relative
s as the "sisters", "brothers" or "cousins" of the unwed mothers. In most national
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
s, the status of a child as a legitimate or illegitimate heir could be changed—in either direction—under the
civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
: A legislative act could deprive a child of legitimacy; conversely, a marriage between the previously unmarried parents, usually within a specified time, such as a year, could retroactively legitimate a child's birth. Fathers of illegitimate children often did not incur comparable
censure A censure is an expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism. In parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure is the accepted rules Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) ...
or legal responsibility, due to
social attitude In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense sc ...
s about
sex Sex is either of two divisions, typically male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot sexual r ...

sex
, the nature of sexual reproduction, and the difficulty of determining paternity with
certainty Certainty (also known as epistemic certainty or objective certainty) is the property of s which a person has no rational grounds for doubting. One standard way of defining epistemic certainty is that a belief is certain if and only if the per ...
. By the final third of the 20th century, in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, all the states had adopted uniform laws that codified the responsibility of both parents to provide support and care for a child, regardless of the
parent A parent is a caregiver of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is the caretaker of a child (where "child" refers to offspring, not necessarily age). A ''biological parent'' is a person whose gamete resulted in a child, a male ...

parent
s'
marital status Civil status, or marital status, are the distinct options that describe a person's relationship with a significant other Significant other (SO) is colloquially Colloquialism or colloquial language is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic ...
, and gave nonmarital as well as
adopted Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting Parenting or child rearing promotes and supports the physical, emotion Emotions are biological states associated with all of the nerve systems brought on by neurophysiological ...

adopted
persons equal rights to inherit their parents' property. In the early 1970s, a series of
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...

Supreme Court
decisions abolished most, if not all, of the common-law disabilities of nonmarital birth, as being violations of the equal-protection clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution The Fourteenth Amendment (Amendment XIV) to the United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally com ...
. Generally speaking, in the United States, "illegitimate" has been supplanted by the phrase "born out of wedlock." In contrast, other jurisdictions (particularly western continental European countries) tend to favour social parentage over the biological parentage. Here a man (not necessarily the biological father) may voluntarily recognise the child to be identified as the father, thus giving legitimacy to the child; the biological father does not have any special rights in this area. In
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
a mother may refuse to recognise her own child (see
anonymous birth An anonymous birth is a birth where the mother gives birth to a child without disclosing her identity, or where her identity remains unregistered. In many countries, anonymous births have been legalized for centuries in order to prevent formerly f ...
). A contribution to the decline of the concept of illegitimacy had been made by increased ease of obtaining
divorce Divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage) is the optional process of terminating a marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people calle ...

divorce
. Before this, the mother and father of many children had been unable to marry each other because one or the other was already legally bound, by civil or
canon law Canon law (from grc, κανών, , a 'straight measuring rod, ruler A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is a device used in geometry and technical drawing, as well as the engineering and construction industries, to measure dis ...
, in a non-viable earlier
marriage Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people called spouse A religious marriage. A spouse is a significant other Significant other (SO) is colloquially used as a term ...

marriage
that did not permit
divorce Divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage) is the optional process of terminating a marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people calle ...

divorce
. Their only recourse, often, had been to wait for the death of the earlier spouse(s). Thus Polish political and military leader
Józef Piłsudski ), Vilna Governorate outlined Image:Vilnius COA 1845.png, 150 px, Coat of arms of Vilna Governorate used since 1845 The Vilna Governorate (1795–1915; also known as Lithuania-Vilnius Governorate from 1801 until 1840; russian: Виленс ...

Józef Piłsudski
(1867–1935) was unable to marry his second wife, , until his first wife,
Maria Maria may refer to: People * Maria (given name), a popular given name in many languages Placenames Extraterrestrial *170 Maria, a Main belt S-type asteroid discovered in 1877 *Lunar maria (plural of ''mare''), large, dark basaltic plains on Eart ...

Maria
, died in 1921; by this time, Piłsudski and Aleksandra had two out-of-wedlock daughters.


Social implications

Nonmarital birth has affected not only the individuals themselves. The stress that such circumstances of birth once regularly visited upon families is illustrated in the case of
Albert Einstein Albert Einstein ( ; ; 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein is known for developing the theory of relativity The theo ...

Albert Einstein
and his wife-to-be,
Mileva Marić Mileva Marić ( Serbian Cyrillic: Милева Марић; December 19, 1875 – August 4, 1948), sometimes called Mileva Marić-Einstein or Mileva Marić-Ajnštajn ( Serbian Cyrillic: Милева Марић-Ајнштајн), was a Serbian phys ...
, who—when she became pregnant with the first of their three children, Lieserl—felt compelled to maintain separate domiciles in different cities. Some persons born outside of marriage have been driven to excel in their endeavors, for good or ill, by a desire to overcome the social stigma and disadvantage that attached to it. Nora Titone, in her book ''My Thoughts Be Bloody'', recounts how the shame and ambition of actor
Junius Brutus Booth Junius Brutus Booth (1 May 1796 – 30 November 1852) was a 19th century English stage actor. He was the father of actor John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln (; February 12, 1809 – April 15 ...
's two actor sons born outside of marriage,
Edwin Booth Edwin Thomas Booth (November 13, 1833 – June 7, 1893) was an American actor who toured throughout the United States and the major capitals of Europe, performing Shakespearean plays. In 1869, he founded Booth's Theatre in New York. Some theatri ...
and
John Wilkes Booth John Wilkes Booth (May 10, 1838 – April 26, 1865) was an American stage actor who assassinated Assassination is the act of murder, deliberately killing a prominent or important person, such as heads of state, head of government, heads of g ...

John Wilkes Booth
, spurred them to strive, as rivals, for achievement and acclaim—John Wilkes, the assassin of
Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln (; February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of governme ...

Abraham Lincoln
, and Edwin, a Unionist who a year earlier had saved the life of Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, in a railroad accident.Nora Titone.
My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy
'. New York: Simon and Schuster; 2010 ited September 24, 2011 .
Historian John Ferling, in his book ''Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation'', makes the same point: that Alexander Hamilton's nonmarital birth spurred him to seek accomplishment and distinction. The Swedish artist Anders Zorn (1860–1920) was similarly motivated by his nonmarital birth to prove himself and excel in his métier. Similarly, T. E. Lawrence's biographer Flora Armitage writes about being born outside of marriage: "The effect on [T. E.] Lawrence of this discovery was profound; it added to the romantic urge for heroic conduct—the dream of the Sangreal—the seed of ambition, the desire for honor and distinction: the redemption of the blood from its taint." Another biographer, John E. Mack, writes in a similar vein: "[H]is mother required of him that he ''redeem'' her fallen state by his own special achievements, by being a person of unusual value who accomplishes great deeds, preferably religious and ideally on an heroic scale. Lawrence did his best to fulfill heroic deeds. But he was plagued, especially after the events of the war activated his inner conflicts, by a deep sense of failure. Having been deceived as a child he was later to feel that he himself was a deceiver—that he had deceived the Arabs..." "Mrs. Lawrence's original hope that her sons would provide her personal redemption by becoming Christian missionaries was fulfilled only by [Lawrence's brother] Robert." Mack elaborates further: "Part of his creativity and originality lies in his 'irregularity,' in his capacity to remain outside conventional ways of thinking, a tendency which... derives, at least in part, from his illegitimacy. Lawrence's capacity for invention and his ability to see unusual or humorous relationships in familiar situations come also... from his illegitimacy. He was not limited to established or 'legitimate' solutions or ways of doing things, and thus his mind was open to a wider range of possibilities and opportunities. [At the same time] Lawrence's illegitimacy had important social consequences and placed limitations upon him, which rankled him deeply... At times he felt socially isolated when erstwhile friends shunned him upon learning of his background. Lawrence's delight in making fun of regular officers and other segments of 'regular' society... derived... at least in part from his inner view of his own irregular situation. His fickleness about names for himself [he changed his name twice to distance himself from his "Lawrence of Arabia" persona] is directly related... to his view of his parents and to his identification with them [his father had changed his name after running off with T. E. Lawrence's future mother]." Christopher Columbus' first son, Diego Columbus (born between 1474 and 1480; died 1526), by Columbus' wife, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, followed in his father's footsteps to become the 2nd Admiral of the Indies, 2nd Viceroy of the Indies, and 4th Governor of the Indies. Columbus' second son, Fernando Columbus (also known as Hernando; 1488–1539), was his out-of-wedlock son by Beatriz Enríquez de Arana and—while he grew up with a fair amount of power and privilege—due to the circumstances of his birth he never quite gained the prominence his father did. Hernando Columbus' biographer Edward Wilson-Lee says Hernando "always wanted to prove himself his father's son in spirit. [S]o he undertook th[e] extraordinary project [of] building a universal library that would [hold] every book in the world... [H]e very much saw this as a counterpart to his father's desire to circumnavigate the world.... Hernando was going to build a universal library that would circumnavigate the world of knowledge." However, realizing that such a large collection of books would not be very useful without a way of organizing and distilling them, he employed an army of readers to read every book and distill it down to a short summary, or "epitome". The result was the Libro de los Epítomes, ''Libro de los Epitomes'' (Book of Epitomes). Soon after Hernando's death in 1539 at age 50, this volume went missing for nearly 500 years—until in 2019 it was serendipitously discovered in a University of Copenhagen special collection. Many of the early printed publications that the ''Book of Epitomes'' summarizes are now lost; but thanks to the out-of-wedlock bibliophile Hernando Columbus, eager to emulate in his own way his father and "legitimate" half-brother, invaluable insights are becoming available into the knowledge and thought of the early Modern Period.


Violence and honor killings

While births outside marriage are considered acceptable in many world regions, in some parts of the world they remain highly stigmatized. Women who have given birth under such circumstances are often subjected to violence at the hands of their families; and may even become victims of so-called honor killings. These women may also be prosecuted under laws forbidding sexual relations outside marriage and may face consequent punishments, including stoning.


In fiction

Illegitimacy has for centuries provided a motif and plot element to Illegitimacy in fiction, works of fiction by prominent authors, including William Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Fielding, Voltaire, Jane Austen, Alexandre Dumas, père, Alexandre Dumas, ''père'', Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope, Alexandre Dumas, fils, Alexandre Dumas, ''fils'', George Eliot, Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Thomas Hardy, Alphonse Daudet, Bolesław Prus, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, E. M. Forster, C. S. Forester, Marcel Pagnol, Grace Metalious, John Irving, and George R. R. Martin.


Notables

Some pre-20th-century individuals whose unconventional "illegitimate" origins did not prevent them from making (and in some cases helped inspire them to make) notable contributions to humanity's art or learning have included Leone Battista Alberti (1404–1472), Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536), Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717–1783), James Smithson (1764–1829), John James Audubon (1785–1851), Alexander Herzen (1812—1870), Jenny Lind (1820–1887) and Alexandre Dumas, fils, Alexandre Dumas, ''fils''"Dumas, Alexandre", ''The Encyclopedia Americana'', vol. 9, Danbury, CT, Grolier Incorporated, 1986, , pp. 466-467. (1824–1895).


See also

* Affiliation (family law) * Anne Orthwood's bastard trial * Bastard (Jewish law) * Bastard (law of England and Wales) * Childwite * Colonial American bastardy laws * Defect of birth * Filial responsibility laws, Filiation * Hague Adoption Convention * Illegitimacy in fiction * Legitimacy law in England and Wales * Legitime * Marks of distinction * Legitimacy (family law)#Nonmarital births, Nonmarital birth rates by country * Non-paternity event * Orphan * Unintended pregnancy


References


Bibliography

*Flora Armitage, ''The Desert and the Stars: a Biography of Lawrence of Arabia'', illustrated with photographs, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1955. *:pl:Andrzej Garlicki, Andrzej Garlicki, "Piłsudski, Józef Klemens," ''Polski słownik biograficzny'', vol. XXVI, Wrocław, Polish Academy of Sciences, Polska Akademia Nauk, 1981, pp. 311–24. *Shirley Foster Hartley, ''Illegitimacy'', University of California Press, 1975. *Alysa Levene, Thomas Nutt & Samantha Williams, eds.
Illegitimacy in Britain, 1700–1920
'. Palgrave Macmillan; 2005 [cited 24 September 2011]. . *John E. Mack.
A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence
]''. Harvard University Press; 1998 ited September 24, 2011 . *Charles Simic, "You Laugh Uncontrollably" (review of Bohumil Hrabal, ''Mr. Kafka and Other Tales from the Time of the Cult'', translated from the Czech language, Czech by Paul Wilson (translator), Paul Wilson, New Directions Publishing, New Directions, 142 pp., $14.95 [paper]), ''The New York Review of Books'', vol. LXIII, no. 8 (May 12, 2016), pp. 58–60. *Jenny Teichman.
Illegitimacy: an examination of bastardy
'. Cornell University Press; 1982 ited September 24, 2011 . *Nora Titone,
My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth that Led to an American Tragedy
', New York, Simon and Schuster, 2010 [cited September 24, 2011], .


External links


Percentage of Births to Unmarried Mothers by State: 2014
(distribution of births outside marriage across the United States)

* Ari Shapiro, "Christopher Columbus' Son Had an Enormous Library. Its Catalog Was Just Found", All Things Considered, NPR newscast, 24 April 201

{{Authority control Legitimacy law, Civil law (common law) Family law Extramarital relationships de:Unehelichkeit