There has been a lot of misconception being attributed to children who are raised by single parents in regard to their development and well being. Single parent phenomenon is no longer something unheard of in our society. Such families are commonplace in our societies today. According to the United States Census Bureau, close to a third of American families are headed by a single parent. The number of single parent families was estimated to be slightly above the 12 million mark in 2000 (Ketteringham, 2007).
With an increasing trend in the single parent families across the US, researchers have conducted surveys to measure the impact of such households on the child’s welfare. There have been misconceptions that single parent families are doomed in that their children are usually associated with drug abuse, being delinquent and dropping out of school among other unconventional behavioral problems. This is however untrue because when such children gets the emotional support from the single parent, they are destined to show positive results just like any other kids from normal families.
This paper shall look into the evidence that denounces the misconceived myths that are associated with children from single parent households. Single parent families: Single parent households are no longer considered as unconventional in the world today. A single parent can be defined as “a parent with one or more children, who is not living with any of the children’s other parents” (Ketteringham, 2007, para 3). In the United States, the number of children from normal family set up has been decreasing each year and an estimated 22 million kids live with single parents.
Women headed families account for about 80% of the single parent households though men headed single households has been increasing in the recent past. Research reveals that mothers account for 85% of custodial parents whereas the fathers take the remaining 15%. It was also found that more than half of the children under the custody of the mothers do not access to their fathers regularly after a couple of years into the break up.
The 2000 census revealed that 38% of single families resulted from divorce, 35% were never married parents, separation accounted for 19%, widowhood and separation due to other commitments each accounted for 4% of single parent families in the United States (Ketteringham, 2007). Generally, female headed households are more in comparison to male headed households. There are many reasons that can explain why mothers account for a majority share of the single parent families but the main reason would be the fact that women are seen as nurturing compared to men and thus have to take the responsibilities of the young children (Lamb, 1998).
Historically, the father was seen as the central figure that could provide for the children and prepare them for the future. In the years that followed after the First World War, there was a shift and mothers were seen as vital in nurturing of the young ones and hence custody of the children was handed over to them. Starting in the last third of the 20th century, the courts have been trying to adopt a middle ground at least in theory to enable men have an equal chance of having their kids in custody as the women. Reality however suggests that very few fathers have been granted custody of their children in comparison to the mothers.
David Blankenhorn observes that “the United States is becoming a fatherless society, a generation ago; an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with his or her father. Today, [the same] child can reasonably expect not to,” (Blankenhorn, 1995, p1). Initially, fatherhood was regarded as of great importance in the lives of children and death of the father was the worst tragedy to happen in a child’s life. In the current times, a father leaving the home has become too common and the society seems accommodative of the habit (Blankenhorn, 1995). Challenges of single parents:
Child rearing is always full of challenges and the challenges are even intensified when one parent assumes the responsibilities that are associated with parenthood. Among the major challenges facing such families is usually financial as most of them cannot afford to stay in the homes babysitting unless they have a stable financial background. For such parents, combining working and caring for the children becomes a great challenge as they have to find a person who shall be handed the responsibility of taking care of the children as they go looking for a job.
Though daycares provide these services for such parents, economical constrains forces these parents to look for financially viable options in the name of extended family members or child minders (Lamb, 1998). A single parent is therefore overwhelmed by the pressure of taking care of the children and looking for financial relieve by landing a job elsewhere. They usually swing between their daily jobs and the un-paying jobs waiting at home. Handling the house chores after a tiring job during the day is a great challenge especially when the kids are still very young.
With the parent tied between responsibilities at the workplace and the home, little or no time can be dedicated to spending with the children and this may lead to other challenges. Single parents hardly find time to get involved in their children’s school work and other activities. Being involved in the child’s life is crucial as a parent (Ketteringham, 2007). Instilling discipline in children is also another challenge faced by single parents as they are sometimes too overwhelmed to notice it.
It is crucial to observe good parenting skills, patience, and love among other aspects associated with parenthood when the kids are young so as to grow in an upright manner. It is also important to observe that the single parents have no time for themselves as they oscillate between the work place and household chores and this has proven to be a challenge in itself for it may worsen the other challenges being faced by these parents (Garis, 1998). More often than not, single parent families are discouraged with the generalized statistics that are revealed by studies into the impacts of single-parenthood.
What the researches fail to reveal is the fact that also dual parent families also comes up with challenges of their own. Though single parent family is a concept that no one will encourage, the reality of the matter requires us to think positive of such families. With the statistics revealing increasing numbers of children being raised with single parents, there is need to offer realist tools and opportunities by highlighting the positives that come from the single parent families as opposed to dwelling much on the negative statistics (Lamb,1998). Generalized Myths about children from single Parent families:
Studies conducted on the issue of single parent families have continued to associate all the negative behavioral aspects in children to the family set up. In the US, the concept of family structure has continued to reveal negative statistics that are associated with the children from single-parent families. Statistics indicate that low birthrates and high death rates are prevalent in the single parent households. There is a revelation that teenagers from these families have a higher school dropout rates and lacks good health compared to their counterparts from normal families.
Incidences of teenage pregnancy have been reported to be higher in such children as opposed to those from dual parent families (Garis, 1998). The negative portrayal of single parent families has continued with the depiction that such families’ children becomes depressed, emotionally stressed, and exhibits general difficulties in school. Revelation has also associated delinquency with single parenthood as statistics reveal that over 70% of teenage murderers come from single parent households and 60% of rape crimes are committed by individuals from single parent families.
Studies also reveal that individuals from single parent families have higher incidences of violent behavior compared to those from dual parent families. In a nutshell, single parent families have continued to be portrayed in negative light and no one can single out any positive elements from such a family set up (Ketteringham, 2007). Nowadays, problems that are associated with single parent families are common and this may leave those affected to think that they have no control over the success of their families as it is destined to be doomed.
This should not be the case as critical analysis indicates that not all the children that have been raised in single parent households are maladapted in the society. When focusing on the negative aspects of single parenthood does not help the single parents and their children in rising up to the occasion and fight the negative aspects. In fact, by portraying the negativity of the single parent households kills the self esteem of the individuals affected and only adds to worsen the situation (Garis, 1998). Demystifying the Myths:
The question that we need to pose to ourselves is about the children raised by single parent families and their supposed social mal-adaptations. Such children are said to find it difficult schooling, getting into conflict with the law, and developing other social problems. It should however be noted that the problems that are usually associated with children from single parent families are more from the financial inability of the parents as opposed to single parenthood as conventionally thought. There are incidences where single parents have brought up well behaved young individuals in the society (Ketteringham, 2007).
Single parent families are faced with financial problems as the financial resources are cut leaving the family in dire need of finances. The single parent is left struggling to make ends meet and this leaves no or little room to attend to the children at the same time difficulties in meeting the financial requirements of the family. Studies have indicated that single parenthood and struggling for finances always coincides (Lamb, 1998). Children from single parent families are often associated with low self esteem compared to their counterparts from dual parent families.
Self esteem is very crucial especially to young children as it helps them to counter the negative peer pressure giving them confidence to face new challenges and become innovative. Showing these children some bits of love is very crucial as it helps them develop a feeling that they are appreciated by someone. It should be noted that children can only emotionally benefit from a healthy parental relationship if not so; the children are going to suffer emotional neglect from the conflicting parents (Garis, 1998). Parental involvement in the child’s life is very crucial especially during the early developmental stages in life.
The children require emotional support and understanding and sharing with the children is advocated for during this stage of development. Children who get the support that they need during this stage would definitely grow into normal citizens and thus rule out the connection between single parenthood and misbehavior of the children within the society. What should be an area of concern is how to ensure that single parents gets the financial support that is very central to the shaping of the child’s future. When the single parent starts struggling to cater for the financial needs of the family, it becomes the source of all evils.
This is because struggling for financial upkeep leaves the single parent with little time if any to spend with their children. However, the affluent single parents can comfortably bring up an upright family as they have enough time to spend with their children (Garis, 1998). Single Parenthood can become a success story: There are misconceptions about single parent families branding them dysfunctional and associating children from such families with social maladaptive behavior. Though they are faced with unique challenges, single parents can successfully address these challenges and provide a good background to their children.
It should be noted that the love, stability and safety requirements that are needed by the children is similar irrespective of the number of parents in the household. No one would wish for separation of any sort but though children of single parents are not showered with the much needed parental love, the love cannot be compensated for by the severe and prolonged stress in the relationship between parents (Lamb, 1998). It is often advisable for parents to separate for the good of the children other than exposing the children to the tension in the relationship.
Single parent families do not have a common background as some results from divorce, others from separations, whereas others result when one parent passes away. Single parenthood can be a challenge to any other person irrespective of race and/or ethnicity. Every individual is set to undergo similar grief upon losing a serious relationship. All single parents are faced with similar emotive challenges in regard to the changed status and thus needs great strength to cope up with the new status (Garis, 1998).
Children from single families become emotionally vulnerable and thus single parents have the responsibility to ensure that the emotional bit has been well catered for in the family. Their top most priority should be the family as they aspire to be the best single parents like no other. This means that the interests of the child should be placed first and that a lot of sacrifices are to be made in attending to the child’s welfare. Such parents need to be supportive and observing patience to help the children in coping.
They should be consistent but not highly punitive like any other parent to provide the child with options, utilize the natural and logical effects and at the same time providing structure for the kids. There is need for open communication between the child and the parent which encourages clear and open expressions to develop an honest and a trustworthy relationship (Garis, 1998). Many single parents have to redefine their situation in order to fit in the new status. They have to learn how to live within the limits of a reduced income and restructure their relationships with the kids.
Developing clearly defined roles within the household can come in handy in compensation to some of the challenges faced by the single parents. A clearly defined structure for the kids to regulate meals, chores, school work and entertainment among other activities is necessary. This helps in bringing a sense of security and reducing anxiety in the children. Communication, understanding and cooperation are very important to single parents but it should be noted that these parents should not leave adult responsibilities to the children (Lamb, 1998).
Conclusion: Though we cannot deny the fact that separation or rather loss of a loved one in a relationship comes with its emotional distress, it should not be misconceived to mean that the remaining family is condemned. What is important though is the fact that the single parents have to accept their new condition and manage the depression that may accompany the situation. This is very important as it prepares one to deal with challenges that come with single parenthood. Single parenthood shall remain part and parcel of our society for ever.
Instead of focusing on the challenges of single parenthood, researchers need to shift and focus on how single parent families can be helped to overcome the challenges facing them. Belonging to a single parent family should not be viewed as a ticket to an unhappy family since it is evident that with appropriate intervention, success in such families is realizable. In general, parenthood can be challenging and it is even more challenging when the responsibilities are left to one parent. Reference: Blankenhorn, D. (1995).
Fatherless America: confronting our most urgent social problem. BasicBooks, ISBN 0465014836, 9780465014835. Garis, D. (1998). Poverty, Single-Parent Households, and Youth At-Risk Behavior: An Empirical Study. Journal of Economic Issues; pp 1079-1085 Ketteringham, K. (2007). Single Parent Households – How does it affect the Children? Retrieved on 10th May 2010 from; http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/297615/single_parent_households_how_does_it. html. Lamb, M. E. (1998). Parenting and Child Development in “Nontraditional” Families. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.