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Over the past 20 years, single parenthood has become common than the “nuclear family” consisting of a mother, father, and children. According to Kowalczyk (2015), almost 25% of households are single parent households, and over 1/3 of children are born to parents who are not married. Today, in every environment within our society, we see all sorts of single parenthood or single parent families. Some headed by mothers or by fathers, or headed by a grandparent, in which case a grandparent raises their grandchildren.

Life is always stressful in single parenting, both for the head and the children. The children in single parenthood may unrealistically expect the family to function as a complete family. When they do not see it so, they may feel that something is wrong. On the other hand, the head in single parenting may be overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for the children, maintaining a job, tidying the house chores and paying the bills (APA, 2017). This clearly indicates that financial resources in single parenthood are drastically reduced.

There are other pressures associated with single parenthood that is not often seen in a nuclear family. These pressures may lead to disjoint in the course of child upbringing in single parenthood.

In this paper, we will look at some of the possible effects of single parenthood and its impact on society. Family and parenting is the greatest tool for building a perfect society. But, is it possible to have a society free of crime, falsehood, corruption, and the likes? In my opinion, YES, but some say NO. Single parenthood or single parenting has been on the increase in our society.

We all know that family is transitional; values are passed on from generation to generation. A good family should beget a good family, and a bad family has the tendency of breeding corruption. How has single-parenting affected the quality of our society today? Can we make amends for the future? Your opinion is highly needed in this one because we all have our family values.

 

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The Concept of Single Parenthood

Definition

Single parenthood is defined as one or more children dependent on one parent. The causes of this are extremely varied. The other parent could have passed away, been divorced, abandoned the family, or been summoned to active duty. A mother is more often the primary caregiver in a single-parent family structure that has arisen due to the death of the partner, intentional artificial insemination, divorce or unplanned pregnancy. Given a large number of troops overseas it is difficult to determine how many children have been affected, or how severely (Kowalczyk, 2015).

If you look back 500 years, the parenting style was very different. The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” is an accurate way to sum it up; the child would be cared for by the parents, the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and close family friends. However, as time passed and the Industrial Revolution and modernization occurred, the ‘village’ shrank and continues to shrink. Human brains evolved to be raised by the ‘village’ and when it is absent then dysfunction could potentially arise.

The attachment

Humans are raised by humans. A human child forms an attachment to a caregiver, and this attachment is what helps guide his/her growth. This goes beyond statements like ‘mummy loves you, don’t you love her?’ Almost all human behavior is learned based on this attachment, including how a person acts, how a person experiences emotion, and how they interact with others.

If a calm, collected, affectionate, and mentally healthy person raises a child, it is most likely that the child will behave the same way. Conversely, if an anxious, disorganized, distant, and mentally unstable person raises a child, it is most likely that the child will behave the same way. This hypothesis is not absolutely correct, but would affect over 70% of children in every home. This happens because a human brain develops based on how the child is parented. Hence parenting is extremely important in our society.

Brain development

A child who does not have a good attachment to a parent will often have stunted emotional, verbal, and physical growth. This lack of parental attachment may result because the parent is overworked, mentally ill, stressed, neglectful or abusive. An extreme case of this was ‘Genie’, a girl who was either tied to her potty chair or left in a dark room for the first decade of her life. The case came to the attention of authorities in Los Angeles in 1970. She couldn’t speak, she couldn’t control or manage her emotions, and her walk was stilted and rough. This extreme example shows us that damage can be done if a child is not raised in a healthy environment.

The human brain learns from its environment and interaction with others. Research by neuropsychologist Erroll F. Leifer and other attachment researchers now suggests that if the environment and interactions are full of stress, then the child’s brain learns to function at an increased level of arousal (Bankston, 1998). The ability to self-soothe, to be upset and to return to a form of normalcy is developed in infancy and childhood.

Think about when you are angry; eventually, you calm down and move on with your life. What is happening on a biological/neural level is the human brain is over-activating; the neurons in the brain not knowing how to turn off or slow down. During the soothing process, the energy of the brain is reduced gradually by internal (self-talk or letting go of the anger) and external mechanisms (coping mechanisms like exercise or drinking). If a parent is stressed and putting chaotic energy into the environment, then the child’s brain will also develop at this higher state of stress and anxiety. As the child continues to grow he or she might search for ways to maintain this ‘normal’ for them. Children of chaotic households tend to have chaotic households when they are older.

Research in the Journal of Educational Sociology by Ivan Russell examined 348 children, half from single-parent homes and the other half from 2-parent homes. The children were matched on age, sex, race, and intelligence (Hilton, 2001). The only difference between the two that was statistically significant was children from single-parent homes were over three times as likely to steal and five times more likely to lie. In homes of divorce or separation, there was an increased likelihood of bedwetting, anger, and poor academic performance. Other factors not found to be significantly different were jealousy, anger, fear, masturbation, fighting, stubbornness and disobedience.

Types of single parenting

Widowed parents

Historically, the death of a partner was a common cause of single parenthood or single parenting. Diseases and maternal death not infrequently resulted in a widower or widow responsible for children. At certain times wars might also deprive significant numbers of families of a parent. Improvements in sanitation and maternal care have decreased mortality for those of reproductive age, making death a less common cause of single parenting.

Divorced parents

Divorce contributes enormously to single parenthood. In the United States, though the divorce rate has been on the decrease in recent times, it still calls for attention. According to Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, the US crude divorce rate is 3.2 per 1000 population and 16.9 per 1000 married women in 2014. In Nigeria, statistics show that divorce is rare, but in reality, it is on the increase when compared with the increasing number of single parenthood.

Along with this, it has been shown that for the past 10 years or so, first marriages have a 40% chance of ending in divorce (Baker, 2011). And, for other marriages after a first divorce, the chance of another divorce increases.

Among divorced parents, there is what they call “parallel parenting”. This refers to parenting after divorce in which each parent does so independently; this is most common. In comparison, there is also “cooperative parenting”. This occurs when the parents involved in the child’s life work together around all involved parties’, schedules and activities. This type is less common.

After a crisis such as a divorce, separation or death occur, most children resume normal development. But their future relationships are often affected, because they lack a model to base a healthy long-term relationship. Nonetheless, according to Baker (2011), adult children of divorcees cope better with change.

Unintended pregnancy

Unintended pregnancy is another cause of single parenthood. Some out of wedlock births are intended, but many are unintentional. Out of wedlock births are not acceptable to society, and they often result in single parenting.

A partner may also leave as he or she may want to shirk the responsibility of bringing up the child. This also may result in a negative impact on the child. Where they are not acceptable, they sometimes result in forced marriage, however, such marriages fail more often than others.

In the United States, the rate of unintended pregnancy is higher among unmarried couples than among married ones. In 1990, 73% of births to unmarried women were unintended at the time of conception, compared to about 44% of births overall (Eisenberg, 1995).

Choice

Some individuals choose to become pregnant and parent on their own. Others choose to adopt. This is common to ladies, referred to in the West as “Single Mothers by Choice” or “Choice Mums”. Many turns to single parenthood by choice after not finding the right person to raise children with. It often comes out of a desire to have biological children before it is too late to do so. Previous generations did not have this option but were coerced by social pressure to marry someone less than ideal. This allows them to undergo a shotgun wedding to experience parenthood in a socially-acceptable way.

Single Parent Family

Single parent families are families with children under age 18 headed by a parent who is widowed or divorced and not remarried, or by a parent who has never married (Karst, 2000).

Incidence of the single parent family

One out of every two children in the United States will live in a single parent family at some time before they reach age 18. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2002 about 20 million children lived in a household with only their mother or their father. This is more than one-fourth of all children in the United States (Karst, 2000).

Since 1950, the number of one-parent families has increased substantially. In 1970, about 11 percent of children lived in single-parent families. During the 1970s, divorce became much more common, and the number of families headed by one parent increased rapidly. The number peaked in the 1980s and then declined slightly in the 1990s. By 1996, 31 percent of children lived in single-parent families (Fields, 2003). In 2002, the number was 28 percent. Many other children have lived in single-parent families for a time before their biological parents remarried when they moved into a two-parent family with one biological parent and one step-parent.

The reasons for single-parent families have also changed. In the mid-twentieth century, most single-parent families came about because of the death of a spouse. In the 1970s and 1980s, most single-parent families were the result of divorce. In the early 2000s, more and more single parents have never married. Many of these single parents live with an adult partner, sometimes even the unmarried father of their child. These families are counted by the Census Bureau as single-parent families, although two adults are present. Still, other families are counted as single-parent families if the parents are married, but one is away for an extended period, for example, on military deployment (Field, 2003).

The most common type of single-parent family is one that consists of a mother and her biological children. In 2002, 16.5 million or 23 percent of all children were living with their single mother. This group included 48 percent of all African-American children, 16 percent of all non-Hispanic white children, 13 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander children, and 25 percent of children of Hispanic origin. However, these numbers do not give a true picture of household organization, because 11 percent of all children were living in homes where their mother was sharing a home with an adult to whom she was not married. This group includes 14 percent of white children, 6 percent of African-American children, 11 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 12 percent of Hispanic children.

Adoption by single individuals has also soared. In 1970 only 0.5 to 4 percent of adoptive parents were single. In the 1980s this rate increased from 8 to 34 percent. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 33 percent of children adopted from foster care are adopted by single parents (Baker, 2011).

Common problems

Single-parent families face special challenges. One of these is economic. In 2002, twice as many single-parent families earned less than $30,000 per year compared to families with two parents present. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 39 percent of two-parent families earned more than $75,000 compared to 6 percent of single-mother families and 11 percent of single-father families. Single-parent families are challenged in other ways. Children living with single fathers were the least likely of all children to have health insurance coverage (Jaffee, 2003).

Parental concerns

Being a single parent can be hard and lonely. There is often no other adult with whom to share decision-making, discipline, and financial responsibilities. The full burden of finding responsible childcare, earning a living, and parenting falls on one individual. However, the lack of a second parent often has a less negative impact on children than family instability, lack of structure, and inconsistent enforcement of parental standards.

Single parents may want to follow these steps to create positive experiences for their children: Find stable, safe child care; Establish a home routine and stick to it; Apply rules and discipline clearly and consistently; Allow the child to be a child and not ask him or her to solve adult problems, and more.

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Effects of Single Parenthood

Negative effects

Social scientists have found that children growing up in single-parent families are disadvantaged in other ways when compared to a two-biological-parent family. Many of these problems are directly related to the poor economic condition of single-parent families, not just to parenting style. These children are at risk for the following: lower levels of educational achievement, twice as likely to drop out of school, more likely to become teen parents, more conflict with their parent(s), less supervised by adults, more likely to become truants, more frequently abuse drugs and alcohol, more high-risk sexual behavior, more likely to join a gang, twice as likely to go to jail, four times as likely to need help for emotional and behavioral problems, more likely to participate in violent crime, more likely to commit suicide and twice as likely to get divorced in adulthood (Davidson, 2004).

Studies have also found that children who live in a two-parent family where one parent is abusive or has a high level of antisocial behavior do not do as well as children whose parents divorce if the child then lives in a single-parent family with the non-abusive parent.

It is important to remember that every single-parent family is different. Children who are living with a widowed mother will have a home life that is different from children with divorced parents or those whose parents were never married (Nomaguchi, 2011). Children of divorced parents will have a wide range of relationships with their parents and parents’ partners depending on custody arrangements and the commitment of the non-custodial parent to maintaining a relationship with the child. Although children from single-parent families often face a tougher time economically and emotionally than children from two-biological-parent families, children from single-parent families can grow up doing well in school and maintaining healthy behaviors and relationships (Pierce, 2013).

Positive effects

Most times, the negative effects of single-parent households are quite apparent; economic troubles and abandonment related trust issues. But, there are also positive effects on raising a child (Pander, 2007).

Strong Mother-Child Bonding: Spending one-on-one time with your little one creates a unique bond that will be stronger than the one if you were a nuclear parent. It goes in the case of custodial parents (one who has sole physical custody of the child) and also non-custodial parents who play a significant role in their child’s lives (Lavie, 2014).

Strong Sense of Community: As with the phrase discussed above “it takes a village to raise a child,” it works with single-parent families as well. Children who have single parents will also have many supporters. In most cases, extended family members will play a unique role in a child’s life. Single parents who do not live with their extended families will try participating in community groups which may include single parent support groups, synagogues, and churches.

Share Responsibilities: Children raised by single parents will not just have token responsibilities to do, but their contribution to the complete family system is necessary. In this way, children will understand the value of their contribution and can take pleasure in their work.

Maturity: Children will find their parents working hard, and it will force them to collaborate and work along with their parents. Additionally, the children will also learn to manage their disappointments in life.

Parental Role Modelling: Children brought up in single-parent families will realize their importance in their parents’ lives. It is a healthy approach that will help them to prepare for the real world. Children will feel secure about their ability to negotiate the challenges of future life (Steil, 2001).

Lack Of Parental Conflicts: There will be no parental conflict, and it eases tension and stress for both the parent and the child. It will be true in the case of the former partner being abusive or the relationship was controversial. If there are no arguments or conflicts, the child will feel more secure in her living environment (Hyunjoon, 2016).

Conclusion

Single parenting or single parenthood is a parent bringing up children alone without a partner. Single parenthood is very stressful. As a single parent, one will have burdens of responsibilities, tasks and decisions to make. Also, he/she would require effective ways to manage the challenges usually experienced in order to nurture and support the children. Causes of single parenthood may vary. It may be due to death, divorce, job responsibility or intentional.

In the past, the parenting approach was completely different. There is a phrase that says “it takes a village to raise a child,” which is quite accurate. Then, children are nurtured by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and close families.

Modernization and urbanization have shrunk the village and the old ways of child upbringing have disappeared. In present times, communities no longer play a role in raising children, there have been a disjoint in morals. Eventually, the health of our society has been severely damaged. Households headed by a single father increased substantially after the early 1980s, reflecting society’s changing attitudes about the role of fathers in child-rearing (Karst, 2000).

In 1970, only 1 percent of children lived with a single father. In 2002, about 5 percent of children under age 18 lived with their single fathers. Single fathers, however, are much more likely to be divorced than never married and much more likely than single mothers to be sharing a home with an adult to whom they are not married (Pierce, 2013).

Our society has been ravaged by the menace of single parenthood leading to increasing delinquency, and social vices. What is the immediate solution? There is a need for increased moral education in our homes and institutions. Hamlets, villages, and communities should resume their duty of assisting in child upbringing. One person does not have all it takes to train a child.

What do you think? How would you want your children trained?

 

Bibliography

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Jaffee, Sara R., et al (2003). “Life with (or without) Father: The Benefits of Living with Two Biological Parents Depend on the Father’s Antisocial Behavior.” Child Development 74 (January-February): 109–27.

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Kowalczyk, Devin (2015). Single Parenthood: Definition & Effects on Children. Study.com.

Lavie, Smadar (2014). Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books.

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Pander, Shanta; Zhan, Min (2007). “Postsecondary Education, Marital Status, and Economic Well Being of Women with Children”. Social Development Issues. 29 (1): 1–26.

Pierce, Latoya; Herlihy, Barbara (2013). “The Experience of Wellness for Counselor Education Doctoral Students Who are Mothers in the Southeastern Region of the United States”. Journal of International Women’s Studies. 14 (3): 108–120.

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