More Canadian women are giving birth out of wedlock than ever before, with three out of 10 babies being born to unmarried moms, according to a new study.

Thirty per cent of births in Canada in 2007 were to unwed women, up from 12 per cent in 1980, according to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention in the United States.

The upward trend was consistent in most developed countries, with levels doubling and tripling in some cases.

In Norway the rate climbed to 54 per cent in 2007, up from 15 per cent in 1980. The rate in the Netherlands rose to 40 per cent from four per cent.

Elizabeth Saewyc, a nursing professor at the University of B.C., said the changing rates can be attributed to a shift in social values away from marriage toward cohabitation.

“It’s becoming more okay (for unmarried couples) to live together, so raising children together is more socially sanctioned,” Saewyc said.

She added that teen pregnancy rates have been declining while birth rates are increasing among adult women.

She said half of non-marital Canadian births in 1970 were to teens, and in 2007 that rate dropped to less than a quarter. On the other hand, more women between 25 and 40 are having babies than in the recent past.

“Not being married doesn’t mean it’s not a two-parent household,” Saewyc added. “Two engaged parents who are committed to taking care of their children does not necessarily require them to be legally married.”

Barbara Mitchell, a sociology professor at Simon Fraser University, added that women are waiting longer to have children so they can be financially secure and independent.

“Women are investing in their education and career, and having more (equal) roles in society, making them less likely to rely on the traditional marriage model for raising a family,” Mitchell said.

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