How Single Parent Households Affect Children
In today’s day and age, single parent families are no longer viewed as non-traditional families since they are all around us. According to the US Census Bureau, approximately 30 percent of American families are headed by only one parent. There were over 12 million single-parent households in the US in 2000.
The percentage of children living with two parents has been declining among all racial and ethnic groups. 22 million children in the US go home to one parent and approximately 83 percent of these parents are moms. While single mom homes are more common, the number of single fathers has also been growing by 60 percent during the last ten years.
With respect to custodial parents, data shows that 85 percent are mothers while 15 percent are fathers. In addition, nearly 50 percent of children who live with their mother do not see their father on a regular basis two years after the breakup of their family.
As the number of single-parent families increase, it has become important to analyze the effect of such households on children. There is no doubt that single-parent households face significant challenges, both for the parent and the child, but that does not mean that such families cannot thrive and function well in society.
Among children who live with one parent, approximately 38 percent live with a divorced parent; 35 percent with a never-married parent, 19 percent with a separated parent, 4 percent with a widowed parent and 4 percent with a parent whose spouse lived elsewhere.
It is important to first understand a few basic factors about the single-parent household. A single parent refers to a parent who has one or more than one child and who is not living with the children’s other parent.
Varied research shows that children in single-parent homes fare worse than those with two parents. There is a prevalence of lower birth-rates and higher death rates among infants in one-parent homes. The number of children aged 15 to 17 years in school and in good health is much lower in children from single-parent homes as compared to two-parent homes. The number of children becoming pregnant at these ages is also increasing.
In addition, children who have gone through a divorce are more likely to suffer from depression, emotional stress and difficulties in school. Adolescents from single parent families were found to be three times more likely to be depressed than those living with two parents. Criminal activity is also more associated with single parent homes. Children from single-parent households account for 72% of teenage murderers and 60% rape crimes. Children from single-parent homes are eleven times more likely to exhibit violent behavior.
This does not mean that problems found in single-parent homes are because of the parent who raises the children. It can be related to things other than single parenting. Single-parent households are generally less well-off financially and this may be a major reason for family problems. Low income families face issues of lower education levels and lower economic achievement which can often leave the child feeling lonely and isolated. Also, children in single-parent households are generally less supervised and there is also less communication between the child and the parent.
As already mentioned, single-mother households are the most common types of one parent family. Compared to single fathers, single mothers face different challenges. Nearly 70% of single parent mothers live in poverty and earn less than $13,000 annually. They have a tough time providing for their families because they usually have lower paying jobs.
However, while women may face more financial issues, at the same time, they are more nurturing and demonstrate their love through hugging, showing affection and by telling them how much they love them. Also, as compared to men, women have an extensive support system and are closer to their friends and family. On the flip side, single motherhood is tough because women make less money and have to work longer hours leaving them with less for their children.
Single father households also face unique challenges. Men may have better positions in the workforce with higher salaries and usually have less economic issues but fathers do not communicate as well with their children as mothers. That is why children from single-father households are more likely to use marijuana and other illicit drugs; they are also more likely to drink and have sex at an earlier age. The perception that fathers are stricter than mothers is not really true since statistics show that they are less disciplinary than single mothers. However, fathers can be a great influence on their child and sons often learn to be good fathers by watching their own father.
In order to fare better, single mothers and fathers should make use of many resources and information that is available to assist struggling parents. There are organizations such as Parents Without Partners and Solo Parenting Alliance that offer various programs, educational, family and recreational activities. Parentsplace is a website that hosts a number of sites that provide information and chat with single parents.
Parents should use these programs because single-parenting can be very challenging and knowledge could help make a difference in how they fare in society.