It’s the typical daydream of most every little girl. Finding a man who loves her, having a romantic wedding, then raising a family together. But what happens when the reality comes too early and the dream is out of sequence?

That’s the case all too often today. In early 2009, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released statistics that show the shattered dreams that come from teen pregnancy:

  • When their child is born, more than half of all teen moms fully expect to be married to the father. The reality: only 2 in 10 of those fathers will.
  • Reality is only 8 percent of teen moms marry the “baby daddy” within a year of the child’s birth
  • And failure is high. Teen girls who give birth outside marriage are far less likely to be married at 35 than their peers who wait to get pregnant. In fact, the failure rate of teen marriages is twice as high as those who wait until after 25, with or without out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
  • It’s not just teen mothers. Most women who give birth outside marriage stay single, and of those who cohabit, it’s much more likely that they’ll either continue to cohabit or to break up than it is to get married.

In 1980, the number of teen pregnancies outside marriage was just over half. Now it’s at 80 percent. Unfortunately, too many girls have bought into two culturally-reinforced ideas that derail their childhood dreams. One is that if they have sex with a guy (or get pregnant by him) he will love and maybe even marry her. The second is that the original dreams of marriage were unrealistic, but at least they can get a child out of the relationship and fulfill the part of the dream about having a family.

Young people today are fed the idea that individual happiness trumps cultural restraint. Looking back, it seems now that those societal taboos of the past about premarital sex and out-of-wedlock childbearing may have been “oppressive” enough to help many a young girl keep her dreams intact.

I just finished the book Hooked: How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children. Authors Joe McIlhaney and Freda Bush (both ObGyns), look at recent discoveries in neuroscience to make a strong case for parental (and other adult) involvement.

The prefrontal cortex of the brain (the part that handles mature reasoning) is not fully developed until the mid-20s. Because brain chemicals like dopamine (that seek repetition of pleasurable actions) and oxytocin and vasopressin (the female and male bonding chemicals) are so much in play in teens, teens need outside intervention from parents and other adults to keep them from following urges that cause them to be involved in behavior that will easily jeopardize their future.

And it’s not just the physical consequences like pregnancy or sexually-transmitted infections that cause problems with non-marital sex. Research now shows that emotional and psychological bonds are created any time there is sexual involvement between two people. Making and breaking bonds with several individuals before marriage apparently weakens the bonding process that is supposed to occur when a couple marries and experiences intimacy for the first time. I would not be at all surprised if neuroscience research eventually links early and repeated extramarital sexual activity to the increase in divorce rates over the past few decades.

The greatest protector of dreams is the One who put the dream there in the first place. God created girls to desire relationships, and ultimately to be in an intimate relationship with one man who would love her, and give her children and security. It happens to be the same One who designed both sex and the marriage relationship. Cultural rules change, but God’s design for sex and marriage and families is reliable and fulfilling.

The stuff dreams are built on.

Copyright © 2009 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.