The Impact of Single Parent and Child Development


The controversy of single parenting is one of the major issues occurring in our modern society. As divorce and broken marriage increases, the product is the production of single parents in every community. Such situation does not only affect the couples, but most of all, the impact of the situation affect the children. Single parenting has proven vast influence and affliction in the development of a child, wherein at early stage the ideal family figure is shattered. Theoretical principles of parenting and models depicting the duties of ideal parenting are the essential concepts necessary in order to explain the most probable impact of such phenomena to the children.


Problem & its Background

The effects of single parenting on child development have caused tremendous alteration in the normal physical, emotional, social and sexual development. Such scenario of single parenthood greatly impairs the ideal image of family instilled in the intrinsic concept of the child and family. Single-parent families are increasingly common wherein it comprises 25% of all children under pre-adolescent groups.

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Single-parent families include never-married mothers, some of whom choose to parent alone, and parents who are divorced, some of whom share the custody of their children. Single parents face special challenges encountered during the course of family building, especially on the ideal perspective. Most importantly, most of these single parents tend to have far few economic resources and a much lower standard of living. Unfortunately, most of the situational effects are received by the children; hence, they are the ones that suffer most in the absence of the other parent.

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Divorced parents and their children find the first year to be very painful, but research suggests that children who have a supportive, understanding, and affectionate parent tend to do well. Although the separated parent often is uninvolved with their siblings, many of these children remain emotionally connected to both parents, even when contact with the non-custodial parent is limited (Rudolph, 2003 p.510).

Dyad parenting plays an important role in the molding of the person’s identity and social concept. Each sex in parenthood contributes to the development of their children by either negative or positive reinforcements. In the case of single parent, the absence of the other parent greatly impairs the normal and ideal cycle of child development. Single-parent families usually conjure negative psychological, emotional, and identity needs among children especially if this situation occurs in the period of pre-adolescent

Scope & Limitation

In this research, the primary subject to be discussed is the effects of single parenting in the child development. The research criteria shall involve the utilization of theoretical frameworks in aid of proving the latest and most detailed explanation of the said sing-panting impacts among children. Moreover, the study shall focus on the specific age group of 12 years old, which is primarily in the stage of pre-adolescent. The research shall utilize integrative analysis and critical data interpretation in order to provide the most accurate data implication in accordance to the study.

The following shall be the primary objectives of the study utilized in the over-all course of discussion.

  1. To be able to identify, analyze and evaluate the most recent findings regarding the impacts of single parenting to childhood development stage, particularly the pre-adolescent age group
  2. To be able to provide an evidenced-based, integrated and evidenced based study of the said subject

The study shall cover first the review of literature involving parenting theories and parental duty-oriented models in order to provide the best possible implication of the study. After which, the discussion shall utilize these theoretical principles in order to gather data and analytic supports of single parenting and child development. The next course of study shall employ the gathered data and utilize in integration and analysis of the proposed subject, which shall be stated in the section of discussion and analysis. Lastly, the study shall provide the conclusion of the over-all data gathered, analysis, integration, and data interpretation.

Purpose & Research Significance

The purpose of this research paper is to analyze the most probable effects of single parenting in the age group of 12 years old, which belongs to the developmental phase of pre-adolescent group. The study can be utilized to support the possible acclaims of the pros and cons of single parenting, and even the social issues concerning the topic. Moreover, the research of such topic can greatly elaborate the effects of single parenting to this specific age group, and in the end, may aid in the formulation of the possible parental intervention in order to avoid possible familial conflicts.

Review of Related Literatures

The proportion of children living in sing-parent families has increased markedly around the world since 1960, and this increase has been especially significant in the United States. In fact, the United States has a higher proportion of single-parent households than that of any other developed country, The proportion of children in the United State living with only one parent increased from 9.1% in 1960 to 28% in 1997 (U.S Bureau of the Census, 1998) (Bornstein, 2002 p.109) while 6% to 12 % of all families in 1999. According to studies, almost 9% of children under age 18 live with a single parent (Bruess & Greenberg, 2004 p.117).

Although there are differences in the prevalence of single-parent families across ethnic groups, with nearly 47% of African American children are living in single-parent families. Such increase has greatly affected all groups of Americans. A wide range of research from sociologists and psychologists has shown that pre-adolescent children of single-parent families are more likely to have difficulties with emotional and psychological adjustment and with school performance and educational attainment, and they are also more likely to have behavioral adjustment problems.

Moreover, this age group is noted to progress certain difficulties in their future marriage, and earlier childbearing compared with children of two-parent families. Because single-parent children appear more vulnerable to a wide variety of societal problems, these children have been routinely referred to as at risk for developmental difficulties (Bornstein, 2002 p.109-110).

In spite of all the difficulties that single parents face, many are highly successful in the childcare that they provide; hence, some pre-adolescent children still strives the normal course of development. However, children brought up in single parent families are still predicted to be at risk unless there are major social changes to provide more adequate support, and ways can be found for children to maintain satisfactory contact with their absent parents. The trend of dysfunctional parenting and broken relationships is likely to continue until training and help with relationships for children are given a higher priority by society (Polany, 2002 p.430).

Usually when we think of single-parent families, we think of them as being headed by women. Although this is generally true - about 82% of single-parent families are headed by women – the number of men heading such families is rising dramatically. In 1990, 14% of single families were headed by a man; in 1999, the comparable figure was 19%. Many single parents have the added responsibility of providing role models for their children of the opposite sex (Bruess & Greenberg, 2004 p.117).

Theories & Models of Parenting

Conceptual models of parent-adolescent relationships and theoretical principles of parenting vary in whether their primary focus is on the adolescent or on the relationship. The prevalent perspective for most of the last century was that pre-adolescents’ physical, cognitive, and social maturation produced inherently unstable relationships (Lerner & Steinberg, 2004 p.332). The theory of Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development particularly identifies pre-adolescent as a period of crisis, where the task is to sort out and establish an individual identity that is distinct from that which may have been established in this stage. Usually these children are self-conscious and perceive strangeness in their body due to pubertal and hormonal alterations. The age of group of 12-years-old is one of the most sensitive stage in the pubertal development cycle, which perceives great value in terms of the people’s outlook over them, social environment, and gender task roles (Cooper, p.51).

In the theory of behavioral and social learning theory, the main aspect that influences child development through parental intervention is life experiences together with the parental presence. In behavioral theory, primary focus is given to operant principles or external contingencies as processes that shape human behavior. Greater attention is given to environmental factors than internal factors.

In social learning theory, the primary focus is given to learning experiences that occur through reciprocal social interactions. Social learning theory emphasizes the socializing influence of the family. Researchers have studied families by comparing those with and without situational impairments in order to examine behavior differences in the home environment. They have concluded that those with lesser familial conflicts produce lesser problematic behavior, while those with presently and evident familial difficulties, such as single parenting, produced behavioral alterations in the children (Condie 2003 p.114).

Another theory proposed is the psychoanalytic theory, which was introduced early in the twentieth century by Sigmund Freud, has been critiqued and modified in different ways ever since. It states that per-adolescent is a time of plasticity, and consequently, parent-child interactions have profound effects on children’s later functioning. The theory utilized the concept of libido as a driving force for the actions and motives implicated by this age group. Psychoanalysts view parents as agents of control in the early years and sources of moral values on identification. Thus, parents play a major role in shaping children’s morality, although sometimes it can be unintentional (Bornstein, 2002 p.109).

In the concept of family systems theory, the parents are viewed as the primary goal-directing unit that is interdependent to one another. The theory views the family as a relatively open or closed system; that is, the family interacts, to a greater or lesser extent, with other systems (Engrebretson & Littleton, 2002 p.63). The family is viewed as an organized completely comprised of related elements and subsystems. As such, t has properties that are not reducible to its constituent parts.

Most notably, the family system has a hierarchy denoting the power relations among members and boundaries that demarcate and define the rules for interactions between subsystems. Finally, families are open systems that are influenced by events occurring in their environment. Families consistently and progressively change as they adapt to these outside forces, as well as to internal forces such as the development of their individual members. However, in the case of single parenting, the primary directing unit is impaired (Bornstein, 2002 p.109).

Single Parenting & Child Development

In the research conducted by Murry and his colleagues (2002) indicates small differences in social-emotional and academic functioning between preschool and pre-adolescent groups from single-parent families. Specifically, pre-adolescent children residing in single-parent households, exhibited slight elevations in reported behavioral problems and poor conflict management techniques, as well as reductions in social skills and academic achievement compared to youth from two-parent families. However, according to their studies, when income level is controlled, such differences dissipate (Lee, 2005 p. 506).

According to investigations of pre-adolescents from divergent family forms revealed that superficially adolescents from single-mother households appeared to be (Lee, 2005 p. 506):

  1. Engage in more risk-taking behaviors (e.g. illegal behavior, substance abuse, sexual activity)
  2. Manifest greater levels of social-emotional difficulties (e.g. depression, aggression)
  3. Demonstrate inadequate social skills and academic performance compared to youth from dyadic families

Discussion & Analysis

The rate of single-parent families is increasing in the United States with the last dated rate of 19% in 1999. It is expected by the theorists that such increase will continue in future due to various interacting factors in the environment, such as increased rate of divorce, separation, etc. Single-parent families are mostly above 18 years old since, only 29% of them are rated to be below 18 years old, which depicts probable lesser count in pre-adolescents. According to the theoretical principles of Erikson, pre-adolescents or children in the 12-year-old age group, which is in the stage of identity search, are very much conscious, sensitive and very much particular in the perception of their social environment towards them.

Utilizing now the theoretical principles of behavioral theory, we have noted that behaviors are primarily molded in homes by the interacting forces, and one of the main units is the parenthood. If this familial unit is impaired, insecurity and behavioral problems results among pre-adolescent as caused by either social ridicule, personal decrease of self-esteem, etc. With the impaired family, behavioral identity of these children is impaired as well as supported by the psychosocial theory of Erikson.

In addition, the psychoanalytic theory of Freud mentioned that parental gender is essential to the development of moral principles of the child; hence, comes with behavioral problems is the impairment of moral judgment. Growing in a single-parent family may cause them to carry the effects until they grow old implicating probable negative and positive effects. As for the theory of family systems, the guiding unit is very much impaired resulting in the probable faulty correction or inadequate disciplinary subsystems for the child’s behavioral and moral deficit.


The advent of increasing single parenting may increase the production of such problematic families. As supported by theoretical frameworks, the most probable impacts implied by single parenting are behavioral and moral difficulties. The number of behaviorally problematic pre-adolescents may increase as accompanied by the case.


Bornstein, M. H. (2002). Handbook of Parenting. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bruess, C. E., & Greenberg, J. S. (2004). Sexuality Education: Theory and Practice. Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Condie, L. (2003). Parenting Evaluations for the Court: Care and Protection Matters. Springer.

Cooper, P. (1999). Understanding and Supporting Children with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Engebretson, J. E., & Littleton, L. Y. (2002). Maternal, Neonatal, and Women's Health Nursing. Thomson Delmar Learning.

Lee, S. (2005). Encyclopedia Of School Psychology. Sage Publications Inc.

Lerner, R. M., ; Steinberg, L. D. (2004). Handbook of Adolescent Psychology. John Wiley and Sons.

Polnay, L. (2002). Community Paediatrics. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Rudolph, C., ; Rudolph, A. M. (2003). Rudolph's Pediatrics. McGraw-Hill Professional.

Single parent families

Paraphrase: Normally the nuclear family is the ideal family in American society, which consists of a husband, wife, and their children whom they had together. In today’s society there have been some radical changes in the country’s family structures. Most families now are single-parent families. Summary: Over the past couple decades; the choosing of being a single-parent family has become more common. The nuclear family is looked upon as the ideal family that now rarely happens. In today’s society the nuclear family consists of mother and step dad, or father and step mom and their children whom they had together or with someone else.

2. The Effects of a Single Parent on Society. By: Florencesa Paraphrase: Single-parent families are higher risk of poverty then two-parent families are. In 2002 many single families earned less than $30,000 per year compared to two-parent families, which earned more than $75,000 per year according to Children who come from a single-parent family are usually quicker to engage in sexual activity, the thought of having that one person to love them. However, children who come from single-parent homes have greater psychiatric problems than those who are from a two-parent family. In research at lease 80% of children come from fatherless homes. Summary: Children who come from a single-parent home have higher risks of poverty in their family, engage in more sexual activity, and have greater psychiatric problems. 80% of children come from fatherless homes.

3. Traditional Nuclear Family vs. Blended Family, By: Kristy Jackson. Paraphrase: In a traditional family consists of a married couple and then their biological children. If a child lives in a traditional family and if siblings are present, only full siblings and no others are in the household. A blended family or blended household includes at least one step parent, stepsiblings, or half-siblings and then one biological parent. Researchers have come up with that children of blended families do worse on average then children who come from the traditional family. They found that children from blended families score lower on measures of academic achievement, conduct, and the quality of mother-child and father-child relationships. But those children from then traditional family are not better off in the long run. Summary: Some researchers have come to conclusion that those children who come from blended families score lower on measures of academic achievement, conduct, and the quality of that mother-child and father-child relationship, but with the children from the traditional family will not end up better in the long run, due to the suffer from pre-divorce stress.

4. Federal Report Confirms 'Nuclear Family' Best for Children's Health. Paraphrase: Children living in single-parent families had higher prevalence rates than children in nuclear families for the various health conditions. However, when compared with children living in other nonnuclear families, children in single-parent families generally exhibited similar rates with respect to child health, access to care, and emotional or behavioral difficulties. Other nonnuclear families in which the children were being raised by at least two adults. These other “two-adult” households, however, resulted in child outcomes more comparable to the single-parent families than to the “nuclear” mother-father families. Summary: Children who come from single-parent families seem to have more problems than children in nuclear families because of their health, and emotional or behavioral difficulties. The children who were raised by two adults but not their biological parents still result in the same situation as the children raised by one parent.

5. The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Well-Being of the Next Generation Paraphrase: Some people ask why Single-parent families put children at risk. Researchers have some theories to explain why children growing up with single-parents have elevated risks at experiencing cognitive, social, and emotional problems. When growing up in single-parent families, most will look to the economic and parental resources available to the children or the stressful events and circumstances to which children must adapt to. Summary: Regardless of family structure, the quality of parenting is one of the best predictors of children’s emotional and social well-being. Single-parent families find it harder to function then two-parent families. Most two-parent families are less emotionally supportive of their children, have fewer rules, harsher discipline, provide less supervision, and engage in more conflict with their children.

6. Worthen, Molly. "Single Mothers with Family Values." New York Times. 27 Oct. 2013: SR.1. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 11 Apr. 2014 Summary: Since the rise of homes for fallen women and unwed mothers in the early 19th century, Christians have worried about their plight with a mixture of compassion and contempt. Today in 2014 conservative Christians see that god-fearing communities are not immune to unplanned pregnancy or divorce. Single mothers understand the family as a set of binding relationships crucial to human identity. Their commitment to traditional family values is all the stronger because they are raising children alone. Paraphrase: Un-planned pregnancy and divorce are some reasons why single-parent families have become common. Single mothers see their family as not complete; they understand the family as a set of binding relationships. When single women want a family their commitment to a traditional family values are all stronger because they have been raising their children alone.

7. Hymowitz, Kay, W. Bradford Wilcox, and Kelleen Kaye. "The New Unmarried Moms." Wall Street Journal. 16 Mar. 2013: C.3. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. Summary: To many Americans the phrase “young single mother” usually pictures a teenage high-school dropout. But that image is now out of date. Teen pregnancy rates have been declining for decades. Today in 2014 a typical unmarried mother is a high-school graduate in her early 20s who may be very well be living with her child’s father. The tragic consequences are the same, children raised in homes that often put them at an enormous disadvantage from the very start of life. Paraphrase: In today’s society Americans believe the words “young single mother” is a women who got pregnant in high-school and dropped out. But really today in 2014 a typical unmarried mother is a high school graduate who probably lives with the child’s father. In today’s society this is more common than your average teen pregnancy relationships. Unfortunally children raised in homes like these often put them at enormous disadvantage from the very start of life.

8. 7 Child Care Issues Single Parents Face

Summary: Being a single parent leads to so many problems like Maintain a work life balance, dealing with inevitable emergencies, traveling for business, changing plans, getting personal time, finding child care for the night out, or even paying for child care. Not getting to spend much time with your child because you are a single parent could lead to problems for the child. Being a single parent can be hard to juggle, but then the thought of being a family means you are in it together. Some days might be filled with laughter and excitement, then other days might be horrible. Paraphrase: Not only does being a single parent affect the parent but of course the child. Not getting to spend any time with the mother or father, and not knowing the other parent could damage the child’s memory, or hurt them in some ways. Even though as an adult you have to maintain your work life, emergencies, traveling for work, changing plans because of the kids, trying to find that personal time, finding that child care for that one night out, or even trying to pay for child care, can still be hard on the parent and the child.

9. Child Trends. (2012). Family structure. Available at: - See more at: Paraphrase: “The proportion of children living with both parents, following a marked decline between 1970 and 1990, has fallen more slowly over the most recent two decades, dropping modestly from 69 percent in 2000 to 64 percent in 2012.” Both the mother and father play important roles in the development in children. The kids living with no biological parent or single-parent households are less likely than children with two-parents to exhibit behavioral self-control, and more likely to be exposed to high levels of aggravated parenting, than are the children living with two parents. Children living with two-parents have in general better health, greater access to health care, and fewer emotional or behavioral problems than children living with a single parent. Outcomes of children living in a step parent family are in many cases similar to those in single-parent homes. Children who live with parents who are divorced also have lower academic performance, social achievement, and psychological adjustment than children with married parents. Children living in households with their single mothers or fathers in some cases fare better, and in other cases worse that includes living with a grandparent. Single parent families tend to have lower incomes than two-parent families do (while cohabitating families fall in between). Summary: Single-parent families suffer from lower incomes, and higher health issues than two-parent families. Two-parent families who have children generally have better health and greater access to health care, and fewer emotional or behavioral problems. Children living in that step parent family end up like the kids from the single-parent families. Children who come from those divorced families have lower academic performances, social achievement, and psychological adjustment than children with married parents.

10. Young children and adolescents can respond differently to divorce, December 19, 2011 by Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D. in Surviving (Your Child’s) Adolescence Paraphrase: A divorce introduces a massive change into a life of a boy or girl no matter what age. When parent’s divorce that to a child is witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households and their rules, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a new challenging family circumstance in which to live which makes it hard on a child. Basically divorce tends to intensify the child’s dependence and it tends to accelerate the adolescent’s independence; it often elicits a more regressive response in the child and a more aggressive response when the child is in its adolescent stage. The child is always the dependent one, closely connected to parents who are favored companions, and really reliant on parental care. The adolescent world is a more independent one, more separated and distant from parents, more self-sufficient, where friends are their favored companion, and where their major focus of their social life now extends outside of family into a larger world of life experience. For a young child divorce shakes their trust in dependency on parents who now have become extremely undependable. They will divide the family up by “mommy’s and daddy’s” side. For a while creating unfamiliarity, instability, and insecurity, never being able to be with one parent without having to be apart from the other parent. Summary: A divorce on a child is the hardest thing they’ll ever have to go through. Divorce will make a child insecure, and confused. A child will normally put the divorce on themselves as it was their fault. It will intensify the child’s dependence on the parents. When divorce occurs in adolescent years it tends to accelerate independence, but also elicits a more aggressive response. When the child is younger they depend on their parents, but when the child is in its adolescent stage they are independent, they are more separated and distant from their parents, and more self-sufficient, where their friends will become their favored companion, where in a child their
parents are their favorite companion.

Updated: Sep 29, 2022
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The Impact of Single Parent and Child Development essay
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