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 â 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 â 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:
– Â¼ of all families didn’t have children at all
– Â¼ of all families lived in couples
– Â¼ 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 â 7.6%.
Talking about other countries we should mention:
Belgium â 1.8 â 2.7 %
Ireland â 2.8 %
Luxemburg â 2.2 %
Japan â 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)
4. Richards, Leslie N.; Schmiege, Cynthia J. (1993).Family Relations, Family Diversity (Vol. 42, No. 3, pp. 277-285).
5. Risman, Barbara J., and Park, Kyung. (1988). Just The Two of Us: Parent-Child Relationships in Single-Parent Homes. Journal of Marriage and the Family.
6. Sacks, G. (2005) “Boys without fathers is not a logical new idea.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas).
7. States News Service. (2005). “America’s Children: Family Structure and Children’s Well-Being
8. Amato, P. R. (1993). “Children’s adjustment to divorce: Theories, hypotheses, and empirical support.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55, 23-58.
9. Bogenschneider, K., Kaplan, T., & Morgan, K. (1993). “Single parenthood and children’s well-being.” Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars Briefing Report.
10. Grossman, A. S., & Hayghe, H. (1982). “Labor force activity of women receiving child support or alimony.” Monthly Labor Review, 105, 39-41.
11. Lindblad-Goldberg, M. (1989). “Successful minority single-parent families.” In L. Combrink-Graham (Ed.) Children in family contexts. New York: Guildford.
12. McLoyd, V. C., Jayaratne, T. E., Ceballo, R., & Borquez, J. (1994). “Unemployment and work interruption among African American single mothers: Effects on parenting and adolescent socioemotional functioning.” Child Development, 65, 562-589.
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15. Benson, Leonard (1998), Fatherhood: A Sociological Perspective , New York, Random House.
16. Berry, Mary Frances (1993). The Politics of Parenthood: Child Care, Women’s Rights, and the Myth of the Good Mother, Viking Penguin Press.
17. Chavlin, Nancy F. (2000). Families and Schools in a Pluralistic Society, State University of New York Press.
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19. Galinsky, Ellen, (1997). The Six Stages of Parenthood, Addison Wesley Publishers.
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Today it is common for children to be raised by just one of their parents, and those children are often disadvantaged in several ways. The most consistent finding from studies of family structure shows that single parents exert weaker controls and make fewer demands on their children than married families do (Curtin et al. 368). There is a real easy explanation for this problem, it is the simple fact that two parents together make more rules and are more likely to stick by those rules than single parents are (Curtin et al. 368).
Single parents are not able to show the same emotions as married couples can, because the love between a mother and a father plays an important part in a family. Children learn how to love from their parents, but if both parents are not there to teach them how to love, their love might be somewhat one-sided (Curtin et al. 371). Yes, single parents can show their love toward their children, but they have no spouse to express love to. Children from single parent families are therefore denied that learning experience of how a husband and a wife should love one another (Curtin et al. 369).
Relationships are another thing that everyone needs, especially children. Children need a real strong relationship between themselves and their parents, but children from single parent families are usually denied this privilege because they are separated from one of their parents and often do not get to spend adequate time with the other. Children who have a strong relationship with their parents are more likely to respect the authority of their parents (Curtin et al. 370). The problem with single parent is the fact that usually the single parent does not have the time to help the child develop a close relationship with them. Another problem is how a child can build a strong relationship with a parent they do not live with and often do not see on a regular basis. The simple fact is that children need both of their parents in the household to build a close relationship with and to teach them to respect the parent’s authority. True, not all children from two parent households have close relationships with their parents, but it is much more likely.
Gender also plays an important role in families. Men and women have very different characteristics, both emotionally and physically. These different characteristics contribute to their roles as mothers and fathers (Curtin et al. 369). For instance, men are normally much stronger physically than women, and are therefore able to do many things around the house that a woman cannot. Women are much more likely to do the everyday household chores while the man does the heavy duty work. Women usually tend more to the children when they need things than do the men, and also help them more with emotional type problems (Curtin et al. 369). So it is easy to see why having both parents in the household makes a much more well-rounded family atmosphere.
When both parents are not in the household children after experience a great deal of stress from different aspects of their lives. This stress often comes from children who are forced into independence and self-reliance before they are mature enough to cope (“Children” 58). Many single parents leave their children at home or send them to low quality day cares centers while they are at work, causing stress on the children (“Children” 60). Yes, two parent families often leave their children at home or send them to low quality day cares, but studies show that it is ten times more likely to happen in single parent families (“Children” 59).
Another time which brings a great deal of stress to single parent homes is the holidays. The holidays are a time when families should be together. Single parents may not be able to provide this for their children (“Holidays” 3). Another problem that arises during the holidays is that of gift competition between the parents (“Holidays” 3). The problem with the parents competing over who gets the best gift is the fact that the children often feel as if the parents want to but their love instead of earning it by showing them love.
Children of single parent homes also face stress by always worrying about everything that is going on in their lives. According to Richard Kinsey single parent children worried more about school, family, future, finding work, crime, and their environment by a large margin (16). However, the biggest worry of these children was about their own personal loves and what was going to happen to them as they grew up (Kinsey 16).
Richard Kinsey also did a survey on crimes committed by children in both two parent homes and single parent homes. He found that children in two parent homes self-reported committing crimes at a rate of 59%, but children from single parent homes self-reported committing crimes at a rate of 74% (16). This survey gives a strong emphasis of how important the respect of authority if for children. It also showed how children form single parent homes are more likely to commit crimes than the children from two parent homes.
Single parent homes not only reflect or cause stress upon children, but also upon the parent. Single mothers especially feel stress when a father figure is not present (Allen et al. 390). According to the survey done by Katherine Allen and Peggy Quinn, seventy percent of the single mothers reported that they always worried about money (390). Not only was money a big issue, but also time and energy (392). These single mothers are put under pressure from about every aspect of their lives, and without a husband there to help raise a family, pay the bills, and to show them love, the single mother must nearly feel hopeless.
Another big stress for single mothers is the fact that now they have the responsibility of two parents (Allen et al. 392). One woman describes how she felt: “And on the weekends then, mow the yard, and clean the house, and wash the clothes. When you get done doing that, its Monday all over again” (Allen et al. 392). Most parents form two parent homes realize the responsibility they have and the stress that they face with a spouse there to support them, but just imagine that spouse not being there to help support and help with the responsibilities of the family and that is exactly what it is like to be a single parent.
Now we have seen the pressures that single mothers face, but what about single fathers because there are many of them in the world today. One example can be found in the article ” A Singular Experience,” by Brad Andrews. Andrews himself is a single father and he discusses the overwhelming responsibilities of being a single father (8). He now has to do all of the household chores and take care of the children all by himself. He can no longer play catch with his son after dinner because now he has to do the dishes (8). These single parent situations create instability and do not provide a positive environment for children to grow up in. Both a father and a mother are needed to create a stable environment and a positive place from children to live.
Another example is the article “Single Fathers With Custody” by Alfred DeMaris and Geoffrey Grief. DeMaris and Grief explain the fact that single fathers experience the same worries and overwhelming responsibilities that single mothers do. Fathers face financial worries, pressures from work, and pressure of time for himself and his children (DeMaris et al. 260).
The simple fact is that being a single parent is a very difficult task, whether it is a single father or a single mother. A family consists of a father and a mother with their children, not just one parent. Single parent homes create a lot of stress and worries on the parent as well as the children, and the stress and worries are not needed by either. After all, it takes two to make a child; it should take two to raise a child.