Research Essay On Single Parenting

Single Parent Homes Essay

This paper is devoted to the issue of singe parenting as one of the important family problems. A single parent is a parent who lives with one or more children without the second parent. Usually the definition of single parenting depends upon the local laws, but there are other cases as well, for example if a parent is left alone after the divorce, after another parent just leaves the family or the child, if the second parent is put to the jail or is dead. It is not necessary that the single parent is natural mother or father of the child, some people choose to adopt a child or become a parent through artificial insemination or just take care of a child, who was left by his natural parents. The household of a single parent differs a lot from a usual household. Certainly all situations are unique, some people choose the path of single parenting consciously, and some are made to bring the child up alone. There are a lot of negative moments about single parenting, there are some positive as well. For example, if a person takes care of a child alone, he has always the freedom to choose and to make all the decisions on his own. On the other hand making decisions can be really hard sometimes and really often people feel the need for somebody’s support and a piece of advice. Usually single parents do not have enough time to do all the house work and thus involve children from the early age in doing chores. Single parents have to discuss most of house matters that should be actually solved with another parent, with their children like with adults. In case the other parent is alive and has the wish to see the kid, they all have to get used to taking the children from one home to another.

At any rate single parenting is rather hard for the parent, as a child needs attention and care all the time and parents need breaks for rest.

We can not consider single-parent households a disaster as in comparison to the family where there is a constant conflict between parents, it is better for the child to have only one parent, but live in the atmosphere of friendship and care. Single parents are more flexible concerning the time for children, as there are not demands from the side of another parent. Children feel more needed and more valued when they are involved into the process or problems solving and decisions making. Single – parent families could be a great support for each other and the source of new relationships as well.

There is a number of potential problems that single parents might face. If their relations with former husband or wife are still not ok, their conflicts might influence children negatively. Children are luckily to have problems at school and sometimes even in relations with their peers. Children have to get used to new relations of their parents and to new people that become the part of their lives.

Thus, single parenting is a rather common situation and with its positive and negative moments should be accepted as a social phenomenon.

The history of single families as well as family as a social block is rather long. It is logical to start from white middle class families that were considered a basis of larger social institutions. The colonial families had the responsibility not only for their families but for the whole colony as well. Parents had concrete defined roles in their work, including children care. Farther was to play the role of a good model of behavior. He had to take care of education of his children and to arrange marriages of them as women were not considered to be able to do it correctly. So, the single parent families could not exist so successfully at those times, as it was almost impossible for one parent to take the role of both parents. Unusual laws existed at those times, for example the so-called “stubborn child” law allowed the death penalty for children who were not obedient to their parents.

In the 19th century the urban family was changed. The family became more separated from the whole community. As soon as the Industrial revolution happened the fathers had to leave their homes, thus their wives stayed at home and had to become the main caregivers to children. The result was that the influence of fathers was not so strong any more and the influence of mothers became on the contrary stronger. As time passed fathers were more and more distanced from their homes and their role of child care takers was substituted by the role of providers. As fathers had the chance to enter the real world, their status was higher and their orders were to be followed. At this time the ideals of “breadwinner” and “model” mother were developed. This ideal also contributed to separation of the father from family life and paying more attention to his work and social position.

Nowadays, most researches state that these both models were not quite correct and are not correct now. During the years 1860-1920 the black immigrant families could not afford only one earner for the family and these ideals were appropriate only for white middle class families. By the year 1893 more and more women were taking up jobs and the number of divorces increased. “In 1950 – about 22% families had both working parents, in 1980 – the number increased to 42 %” (Hilton, J., Desrochers, S.,Devall, E. (1999).

Since the year 1980 the divorce rates were twice as big as before. This meant that about one-third of all children lived in single parent families or in step-families.

The statistical researches at that time showed that:
– ¼ of all families didn’t have children at all
– ¼ of all families lived in couples
– ¼ of families were headed by females
– 4 % of families were extended.

Thus, we can come to the conclusion that as well as the family ideals were changing, the number or single-parent families and the attitude to them, was changing as well.

If to count the number of single mothers in relation to single fathers the correlation will be nine to one, that means that children in most cases are left with their mother. It is clear that mothers are usually more close to their children and are more concerned about them, though there are some exceptions, but there are a lot of difficulties that single mothers have to face. In most cases women have lower paid jobs and the problems of income are vital for single mothers headed households. All low income families have financial problems, but in this case women have to raise their children on top of it. The researches showed that “about 50 % of all households in poverty were female-headed. It is not only because of low wages that women get, but mostly because of the lack of another earners in the family, as a result there are cases when children start to work early in order to help their mothers” (Amato, P. R. (1993)). The only positive moment here is the fact that they do not have to buy as much food as it is needed when there is a male parent living together with them.

The researches prove that the age of women from female-headed households and from two-parent households was similar, but women from female-headed households had to take additional hours or even to work the full time.

There is often a problem of single mothers among teenagers. Young girls are left with their kinds and their fathers just disappear. Then there are a lot of problems connected not only with finance but many others as well.

The financial situation is not that hard by African-American single mothers, as the percentage of their income to the whole income of the family was bigger, but they have little chance to receive any child support money or other state payments. About “25% of Spanish households in Los Angeles, California and Arizona were headed by women, about 17.3 % of Hispanic households also had a female had” (Grossman, A. S., & Hayghe, H. (1982)).

To draw a conclusion to this part we should mention that the cases of female-headed households happen more often, the problems they face are lack of finances and the need to spend a lot of time at work.

Fathers make about 13% of single parents in the USA. Nowadays fathers are more used to take some female roles at home. They are more involved with their children and in house chores. Before men were primary caregivers, only some of them had to raise their children alone due to the death of their wives.

As men usually have higher positions at work they have higher incomes as well, thus they seldom face the same financial problems that single women do. On the other hand fathers do not always succeed in finding common language with their children and the results are that children raised by a single father are more likely to start using drugs or developing drinking habits, or start early sexual life. Although there is a common opinion that fathers are stricter than mothers, they are often not able to communicate with their children as well as the mothers can do it. Sometimes father are themselves not disciplined or organized enough, than it is not surprising if they can not help their children to develop such qualities. On the other hand, a good father could as well be a good example for his son, a good model of behavior, some mothers have problems with their sons as at some certain age they need the strong influence of a man.

The percentage of too young fathers is lower in comparison with teenager girls who have kids.

In the twentieth century the number of male-headed households increased greatly among Latino, Asian and “Other” race households.

It a fact that single families are not the American phenomenon, there are a lot of them all around the world. The number of single parent households increased greatly in England and in Australia during 1990s. “In the UK lone-parents families formed about 3.3% of all households, the percentage of them in Australia was even higher – 7.6%.

Talking about other countries we should mention:
Belgium – 1.8 – 2.7 %
Ireland – 2.8 %
Luxemburg – 2.2 %
Japan – 5.1 %” (Quinlan, Robert J. (2003)).

In all countries most of single parents are women. Such countries as Greece, Portugal and Italy have more conservative views concerning family issues and thus they have much lower percentage of single parent families.

Raising a child on one’s own is a rather hard and stressful experience, single parents have to take a lot of effort in order to develop better organization skills, and they depend on many factors and have more responsibility for their children. Being a single parent doesn’t although mean that a person should be separated from the whole world and stay alone with his problems and difficulties. They should look for and use the support that can be provided for them by the society. Single parents should never feel ashamed or allow their pride make obstacles for the support they can get from others. If there is a strong network of friends, other family members and community resources is built around the single parents, it would be much easier for him or for her to copy with all the difficulties. There are several areas where single parents need strong support from the society: emotional support, social network support, self-esteem support, informational support and so on. These types of support might come from friends, co-workers, neighbors and counseling services.

Overall, in this paper we tried to look upon the major issues connected with problems of single-parent families, discussed some historical facts, defined the two types of households- headed by men and headed by women, named shortly the main strengths and weaknesses of them, presented the short analysis of race, age and financial factors connected with the issue, and at last concentrated briefly upon the possible support sources for single parents.


1. Hilton, J., Desrochers, S.,Devall, E. (1999). Comparison of Role Demands, Relationships, and Child Functioning is Single-Mother, Single-Father, and Intact Families. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage ,35 29-56.
2. Mulkey, L.; Crain, R; Harrington, A.M. (1992).One-Parent Households and Achievement: Economic and Behavioral Explanations of a Small Effect. Sociology of Education, 65, 1, Jan, 48-65
3. Quinlan, Robert J. (2003). Father absence, parental care, and female reproductive development. Evolution and Human Behavior, (Vol. 24 pp. 376-390)
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Multiple aspects compose single-parent households. Some social impacts include diminished social capital for children, education, socioeconomic factors, potential health and psychological concerns, the criminalization of fathers, and abuse of mothers. This article provides an overview of these multiple impacts through a sociological lens. Applications will be presented that describe impacts of single-parent households on general society. Issues will be offered that present an overview of the benefits of the single-parent household. A conclusion will be offered that supports the need for future research into each of the variables composing the single-parent household.

Keywords Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; No Fault Divorce; Occult Injuries; Single-Parent Households; Social Capital; Social Disorganization Theory

The Single-Parent Household


According to Cunningham and Knoester (2007) the number of single-parent families in the United States has increased significantly since the 1970s. Moreover, the fastest growing family type in the United States is the single-parent family, which by 2010 constituted about 30 percent of all families with children, according to the 2012 US Census Statistical Abstract. Single-mother households with children represented more than 8 million households or approximately 79 percent of single-parent families. In addition, the number of single-father households more than tripled between 1980 and 2010. In 1980, single-father families made up roughly 2 percent of all families with children, with less than 700,000 households. By 2010, the number of single-father households had reached 2.2 million, or about 6 percent of families with children.

Children are incapable of choosing the circumstances of their childhood and adolescence. Weitoft, Hiem, Haglund, and Rosen (2003) argued that "childhood family background still seems to be an important predictor of a person's life-chances as an adult. Moreover, in the second half of the 20th century, growing up with one parent is increasingly common" for children in the post-industrial world (p. 289). In researching the multiple impacts of the single-parent family, researchers have assessed the implications of "parental achievement, conduct, psychological adjustment, social competence, and health" (p. 289). Weitoft et al. (2003) further concluded that children and adolescents from single-parent households demonstrated higher propensity toward “psychiatric disease, suicide or suicide attempt, injury and addiction” contrasted with those in two-parent households. Specifically, “boys in single-parent families had higher risks than girls for psychiatric disease and drug-related disease, and they also had a raised risk of all-cause mortality” (p. 294). Additional research indicates that the multiple impacts of single-parent households on children are numerous and complex.

Effect on Social Capital

Before Weitoft et al.'s (2003) findings were reported, Coleman (1988) argued that the most prominent element of "structural deficiency in modern families" is the single-parent family (p. 111). In his research, Coleman (1987) identified the ideal situations in which social capital is accumulated in relation to family situation. He suggested that “a number of influences linked to the industrialization and modernization of societies meant that the family in its modern form is low in social capital when compared with formations in earlier times” (Seaman & Sweeting, 2004, p. 175). To initiate further understanding, social capital has been described as “a characteristic of the relations between people” (Seaman & Sweeting, 2004, p. 174). Social capital advantages occur when trust and reciprocity allow for access to resources such as human and cultural capital that already exist within the community or social network (Coleman, 1988). Bourdieu described social capital as both a quality and quantity of relationships: "first, the social relationship itself that allows individuals to claim access to resources possessed by their associates, and second, the amount and quality of these resources" (Portes, 1998, p. 3-4). In this understanding, "social capital is something possessed by individuals that gains its strength in the aggregate of social networks" (Seamen & Sweeting, 2004, p. 174). Research into social capital and young people's outcomes also focuses on education. Coleman (1988) presented data showing “higher school drop-out rates for pupils with a single parent, several siblings and no maternal college expectations” (Seamen & Sweeting, 2004, p. 176).

Aquilino (1996) (cited in Moore, Vandivere, & Redd, 2006, p. 51) indicated that "among children who were born to unmarried mothers, and those who grew up with a single parent or in a step-family were less likely to complete high school than those who were adopted or who transitioned to living with two biological parents." Another study indicated that, for white youths only, a larger portion of childhood spent in a two-parent family was associated with lower probabilities of high school dropout, marijuana use, and teen parenthood (Hauren, 1992). Cleveland (2003) reported that "adolescence may be the most important time to consider the effects of neighborhoods on risk behaviors, such as aggression and delinquency" (p. 212). Social disorganization theory explains that the higher levels of delinquency, crime, and other behavioral problems in structurally disadvantaged neighborhoods are due to lower levels of informal social controls caused by these disadvantages (Case & Katz, 1991; Sampson, 1997; Sampson & Groves, 1989).

The Two-Parent Family Advantage

Adolescents who receive parenting that simultaneously protects them from neighborhood dangers and cultivates opportunities outside the neighborhood can avoid negative outcomes (Furstenberg, 1993). By providing adolescents with consistent emotional support and discipline, effective supervision, and close emotional ties, cohesive families can often overcome neighborhood disadvantages (Sampson & Laub, 1994). Moreover, Saylor, Boyce, and Price (2003) indicated that "family variables in the first months of a child's life including low income, single-parent household, and high parenting stress were significantly correlated with behavior problems appearing at 7.5 years of age" (p. 175, Abstract). They concluded that "it appears that being in households which are financially secure and have two parents may minimize the likelihood of later behavior problems, even in low birth weight youngsters with known neurological insults" (p. 188).


Primary applications of the impact of single-parent households include:

• Education,

• Socioeconomic factors,

• Potential health and psychological concerns,

• The criminalization of fathers, and

• Abuse of mothers


Studies in the United States and Britain have found that educational attainment is related to family structure (Zimiles & Lee, 1991; Furstenberg & Hughes, 1995; Teachman et al, 1996; Sweeting et al, 1998). Marriage is positively associated with education and employment. Education, employment status, race, age, marital status, and number of children are also associated with psychological well-being (Cunningham & Knoester, 2007). Children who were born to unmarried mothers or those who grew up with a single parent or in a step-family were less likely to complete high school than those who were adopted or who transitioned to living with two biological parents (Aquilino, 1996).

In addition, low parental educational attainment is a risk factor for poor cognitive development (Jackson, 2003; Roberts et al., 1998), and for not completing high school (Haveman et al., 1991). Mothers' educational attainment has also been negatively associated with aggressive behaviors among adolescents (Kowalski-Jones, 2000) and teen childbearing (Afxentiou & Hawley, 1997; Manlove et al., 2000). According to each of these studies, education can directly be impacted by living in single-parent households.

Socioeconomic Factors

According to Weitoft, Hiem, Haglund, and Rosen (2003),

The socioeconomic situation of children in families with only one adult was different from that of children in families with two adults. More single parents than couples were unskilled manual workers, low-grade non-manual workers, and people without an occupation, whereas couples were more likely than single parents to be high-grade or medium-grade non-manual workers (p. 291).

Additionally, women with low educational status, which was reported to be highly correlated with socioeconomic status, have a higher risk of being a single mother through separation than do mothers with high education. Weitoft et al (2003) also believe that the "style of living in a large city moves toward an increase in the number of single parents, rather than the idea that becoming a single parent leads to urban migration" (p. 291). In addition, twice as many single parents as couples received unemployment benefits.

According to Laasko (2004), in terms of custodial and non-custodial parental responsibilities, financial contributions have often been seen as “a key factor in explaining both mothers' and fathers' behaviors and the frequency of visits with their children. As stated by Lin and McLanahan (2001), fathers are likely to demand more time with their child in exchange for financial renumerations. Teitler (2001) pointed out that academic and public interest in contributions of fathers, until recently, has been limited to their role as breadwinners. As a result, there has been an increase in child support payments and concomitantly a larger number of parenting plans established (Grail, 2002)” (p. 134). Moreover, Primus (2006) indicated that "an examination of trends since 1979 suggests that periods of economic recession and expansion affect child living arrangements. In general, economic slowdowns tend to lead to a reduction in the proportion of children living with married parents, an increase in cohabitation, and an increase in single parent households" (p. 716). All of these factors are indicative of socio-economic efficacy and corresponding impacts on single parent households.


Head Injuries

Rubin, Christian, Bilaniuk, Zazyczny, and Durbin (2003) statistically reported that among children with head injuries, 72 percent came from single-parent households, 37 percent had mothers whose age was less than 21 years, and 26 percent had a history of prior child welfare involvement in their families (Abstract). They wrote, "Head injury is the leading cause of death in abused children under 2 years of age, and early detection of head injuries can limit significant morbidity and mortality" attributed to the injury. "Multiple investigators have shown that most children with inflicted head injury have evidence of other occult (hidden) injuries, including fractures, at the time they present for medical care" (p. 1382). Rubin, et al. further wrote, "Given the importance of confirming child abuse and influencing safety recommendations before medical discharge, we believe the finding of such a high prevalence of occult head injury in this study should influence guidelines regarding screening of this population" (p. 1383). Based on this study, the researchers stated, "Our finding of a relatively high prevalence of occult head injury in this cohort suggests the need for universal screening of similar high-risk abused children" (p. 1386). Additional health issues also exist for targeted groups, such as higher propensities toward obesity and psychological issues.


Epidemiological studies have indicated that the "prevalence of obesity in the United States is on the rise" (Mokad et al, 1999; Trojano & Flegal, 1998 as cited in Gable & Lutz, 2000, p. 293). "According to the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, rates of adult obesity has increased from 25% in the 1970s to 33% in the 1980s" (FASEB, 1995; Kuczmarski, Flegal, Campbell & Johnson, 1994, as cited in Gable & Lutz, 2000, p. 293). Obesity is associated with chronic disease and harmful health conditions; the growing incidence of obesity is a serious public health issue. Research indicates that demographic characteristics of the family also show associations with food consumption, food preparation, and food availability. The structure of the family can directly...

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