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Are Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston doing the right thing in separating?
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


March 17, 2009

Few are surprised that Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston, the strapping, hockey-playing father of her 2-1/2-month-old baby Tripp, broke off their engagement last week.

"It's just us not, me not being mature enough, or something, and having a kid and thinking ... it could be better -- better for us to separate for a while," the 19-year-old Johnston said Monday in a "Good Morning America" interview. He and Palin, 18, remain friends and he hopes they eventually reconcile.

For now, many think the young couple is doing the right thing.

"I think it's a good idea if things weren't working out, it's time to move on," said Breanne Skultety, a political-science major at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. "I'm 19 and I wouldn't be ready to raise a child either."

Except for the young couple's relative celebrity -- Palin's mother is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate -- they're very much like other teen parents.

"What has transpired between Bristol and Levi is exceedingly common," said Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in Washington. "Most teens never get married and the few teens who do get married tend not to stay married."

Shotgun weddings are no longer the societal norm. Marriage and birth patterns among teens have shifted from a general trend of marrying before pregnancy to marrying because of pregnancy to becoming pregnant and not marrying, he said.

At the time of their child's birth, more than half of teen mothers are certain or think the chances are very good that they will marry the child's biological father. However, the reality is that fewer than 8 percent of teen mothers marry their baby's father within a year of the child's birth and 8 out of 10 fathers never marry their child's teen mother, he said.

"I don't know if this is the case with Bristol and Levi, but there's a little bit of magical thinking going on that the baby will either solidify the relationship ... or move them up the relationship ladder," Albert said. "That really is a fantasy."

News of Palin's pregnancy surfaced shortly after her mother received the vice-presidential nomination and the family quickly reported the two planned to marry.

They appeared together at the Republican National Convention, and more than a few bloggers, pundits and comedians thought Johnston cleaned up nicely, but looked a bit like a deer caught in the headlights.

"I don't think they were going to get married in the first place," said David King, 23, a Point Park University student majoring in sports and arts and entertainment marketing. "It was all a put-on. He didn't want to get married. And didn't she call his family 'white trash'? The Palins thought they were better than him."

Last week, Star Magazine reported that Johnston's sister, Mercedes, said: "Levi tries to visit Tripp every single day, but Bristol makes it nearly impossible. She tells him he can't take the baby to our house because she doesn't want him around 'white trash'!"

Johnston told "Good Morning America" that he sees Tripp as much as he wants.

Ashley Smith wishes everyone would simply leave Johnston and Palin and their families alone, saying they'd just be two ordinary teen parents if it weren't for the Sarah Palin connection.

"The girls are all ready to (marry) and the men are in this iffy stage," said Smith, 19, a Point Park University broadcast student. "That's usually what happens. I feel sorry for the girl, but that's how it is."


L.A. Johnson can be reached at ljohnson(at)
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