Family is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “a group consisting of parents and children living in a household together”. But not all families have a mother, father, and children. Some families only have one parent making it a single parent household. Since the 1960’s single parent households have been increasing year after year. Information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau shows an increase of 3% in single parent homes from 2008 to 2012.
Research shows by the University of Washington’s West Coast Poverty Center, that having only one income earner in the home puts single parent households at risk for poverty. Living in poverty is stressful and can have many emotional effects on children, including low self-esteem, increased anger, frustration, and an increased risk for violent behavior. Besides financial constraints, other emotional effects of growing up in a single parent household may include feelings of abandonment, sadness, loneliness, difficulty socializing, and connecting with others. Effects vary from child to child, however, and the individual parenting style of the single parent is also a big influence on the child’s development. For the financial side, income loss appears to affect the well-being of children by putting a negative impact on family relations and parenting. The link between economic stress and mental health has been documented in various studies. Single mothers must obtain sufficient money to cover the most basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Financial strain is one of the strongest predictors of depression in single parents that then affect the children. Poor single mothers often experience a cycle of hopelessness and despair which is detrimental to both themselves and their children.
Mother-only families are more likely to be poor because of the lower earning capacity of women, inadequate public assistance, and lack of enforced child support from the fathers. Most single-parent households are run by mothers, and the absence of a father — coupled with lower household income — can increase the risk of children performing poorly in school. The lack of financial support from a father often results in single mothers working more, which can in turn affect children because they receive less attention and guidance with their homework. Researcher Virginia Knox concluded from data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, that for every $100 of child support mothers receive, their children’s standardized test scores increase by 1/8 to 7/10 of a point. In addition, Knox found that children with single mothers who have contact and emotional support from their fathers tend to do better in school than children who have no contact with their fathers. In an article published by the New York Times, Sheila Fitzgerald and Andrea Beller, professors of human resources and family studies at the University of Illinois say “time spent with a single parent during the formative preschool years seems to have particularly bad effects on a boy’s education.” The two Illinois researchers said they studied effects on education because it ”has been shown to be a predictor of welfare and persistent poverty”. They used two long-term surveys to study two generations of mothers and their offspring, totaling 2,500 boys and girls. ”In general, the longer time spent in a single-parent family, the greater the reduction in education”
Single mothers who work outside the home appear to provide greater incentive as role models for their daughters than for their sons, said Andrea Beller in a telephone interview. The role-model influence in the case of girls appears to compensate for the loss of the mother’s time at home, she said. ”The boy doesn’t have this model,” ”He just has the loss of a parent.” Data provided by the National KIDS COUNT shows that in 2012 35% of homes were single parent households. Breaking down the numbers even further, those of Asian descent were at 17% for having only one parent in the home. Hispanics made up for 42%, American Indians were at 50%, the Black population was at 67%, and Whites made up for 25%. These percentages today have risen 30% since 1960. So why is this matter not the center of policy discussions? There are three reasons. The first stems from the political debate. Many people do not want to lean one way or another, writing and funding grants, which can go against their political party’s values. Politics is not always about whom you are for but who you’re against. The second reason is that the minority communities have been hit the hardest. Even bringing up this issue a person can be claimed as being racist. Last is that there is no quick fix. Welfare reform began in the mid 1990’s and only offered modest marriage incentives. But the first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is one.
Maranto, Robert (2014, April 20) Ignoring an Inequality Culprit: Single-Parent Familie http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303603904579493612156024266 The Future of Children (2005, Fall) Why Do Single-Parent Families Put Children at Risk?
http://futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=37&articleid=107§ionid=692 Kunz, Marnie (2014, Jan 6) The Effects of a Single Parent Home on a Child’s Behavior http://www.livestrong.com/article/83670-effects-single-parent-home-childs/ Kirby, Jacqueline (1993) Single-parent Families in Poverty
http://www3.uakron.edu/schulze/401/readings/singleparfam.htm AP (1988, June 29) Single-Parent Homes: The Effect on Schooling
http://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/29/garden/single-parent-homes-the-effect-on-schooling.html Data Center (2012) Children in single parent families by race