From The Grio — There is sure to be much discussion about the new University of Michigan study that shows an increase in the numbers of American women having children by multiple partners. Some African-American women who study and advocate for mothers are issuing cautious glances to the report out of the school’s Institute for Social Research.

The study shows that 28 percent of American women with two or more children have done so by more than one man, and when it comes to African-American women, that figure jumps to 59 percent. Some believe the survey could become another way to attack women of color.

“There has been a lot of ink spilled on the love lives of black women, a lot of over-sensationalizing,” said Avis Jones-DeWeever, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women. “I would call it the Sara Baartman-ization of black women.”

Jones-DeWeever was referring to Sara Baartman, a tragic figure in history whose life seemed to exemplify public ridicule of women of African descent. Baartman was a young woman taken out of her native South Africa by a Scottish doctor and a showman, both of whom marveled at the ample size of her rear end. Baartman’s captors brought her to London to display her semi-nude as a freak to the public. They called her the “Hottentot Venus”.

Now, almost two centuries after Baartman’s death, women of African descent are still battling stereotypes and ridicule, Jones-DeWeever said. She fears the University of Michigan study will help perpetuate that.

“I have a lot of respect for the University of Michigan, and as a researcher myself, I certainly don’t want to discount the value of research,” Jones-DeWeever explained. “What I am concerned about is how it’s going to be sensationalized in the media. I am concerned that this will be another way that this country will put a negative label on black women which, in this country, we have a long history of doing.”

Study coordinator Cassandra Dorius, a demographer, could not be reached Friday morning, but the university’s press office did point out that the data show that the phenomenon of women having children with more than one man seems to be stretching across all walks of American life.

Dorius is quoted in a university press release as saying that “it is surprisingly common at all levels of income and education, and is frequently tied to marriage and divorce rather than just single parenthood.”

Tami Winfrey Harris shares some of Jones-DeWeever’s concerns. Winfrey Harris is part of the editorial team of Love Isn’t Enough, a blog focused on parenting and race. She said the University of Michigan study could indicate that the country is shifting to a new normal in terms of parenthood.

“If I was a betting woman, I would guess that many people will point to this fact as an example of the decline in American morality and the cause of a great number of societal ills,” said Winfrey Harris, who is based in Indianapolis. “And because our society likes to police the sexuality of women — especially women of color — these troubles will be laid at our feet.”

The shift is not necessarily a bad thing, said Winfrey Harris, who married a man with two children and became a stepmother.

“I don’t see this news as inherently bad or good. It simply is,” Winfrey Harris said. “One married mom and dad is not the magic potion that makes families work. There are millions of successful, healthy, blended and non-traditional families.”

The figures are likely a reflection of changing social norms, Jones-DeWeever said.

Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter


  1. hello

    sargewp and dorsey, why can’t you just marry non-black women and move on with your lives and be happy instead of flooding our sites?

    • Dorsey

      “sargewp and dorsey, why can’t you just marry non-black women and move on with your lives and be happy instead of flooding our sites?”

      Marriage? The legal system as it is, I don’t and haven’t recommended any men marry. AND haven’t even touched on race. Where you getting this from? Some discernment please.
      And again, it’s not YOUR site. I’ve been posting/reading since 09′ and there’s always been quite a few men posting here. You know better than that. The deflection has gotten more ridiculous of late.

  2. Rastaman

    It is a shame that so many people instead of taking the conclusions from this study and using it to advance ideas that help some have decided to add it to their arsenal for personal agendas. That 59 percent of AA women have children by multiple partners is not a negative statistic. The only conclusion one can draw from that statement is that 59 percent of AA women have had more than one sex partners. The conditions of their families nor their domestic situation is not indicated. Yet some people have found it fit to add their own color to these statistics to advance their personal agendas.

    Even worse is those who deny the validity of the study or the findings just because it does not fit into their worldview without knowing anything else about the study itself. It either indicates that they think there is some validity but do not want it to be true. Or they doubt the validity of all sociology studies no matter who is the source. That in my view only attempts to advance ignorance.

    I would like to hear more about these conclusions and the women who were the subject of this study. I would like to hear an empirical analysis of the study by an independent group.

    So many of the comments on here were never about the study’s conclusions but more of the internecine gender war that too many black men and black women are engaged in these days. With this kind of rhetoric and negative emotions it is a wonder they have time to have multiple sex partners.