The traditional picture of an ideal family for many people of the 20th century had to include a mother (a household keeper), a father (a breadwinner), and several children. Yet, this family structure is on the verge of becoming outdated since modern families tend to develop their own models of organizing their relationships, which often lead to deplorable consequences.
Although there were a lot of family types throughout history, the current tendency is worrying as non-traditional and single-parent families start to prevail being imposed as a cultural norm (Semenova, Kiseleva, Ilyashevich, & Alisievich, 2015). Thus, the issue of family values (including their transformation, deterioration, and replacement) requires thorough investigation in order to understand if there is a real threat to the family institution and what can be done to reverse the process if it is necessary.
A lot of researchers see the problem of degradation of ideal values in individualism, which has already become a new philosophy of modern society (Esping‐Andersen & Billari, 2015). Although the United States is the country characterized by a high individualism score (according to Hofstede’s dimensions), it would be unfair to forget how closely tight American families were no more than half a century ago. They were able to solve problems that lead spouses to divorce nowadays since family members were able to work together as a unity. It is also believed that technology is one of the factors that led to the destruction of family ties. Another factor was feminism that made women go to work and deprived the family of its major link (Carlson, 2012).
Despite the positive aspects of feminism, it also produced a number of negative effects. Since women won independence from men, it became easier for husbands to abandon their families and for women–not to marry at all. Currently, in the United States, there are more than 12 million single-parent families, the majority of which are headed by single mothers. The statistics are even more worrying in other countries. The key problem of single motherhood is that app. 40 percent of such families have to live below the poverty line (Duncan, Edwards, & Edwards, 2013). Thus, a lot of research has to be done in order to identify what can be made to improve the status of single mothers in order to give them an opportunity to raise their children as full-fledged members of society.
The Influence of the Researcher’s Perspective
Since there are so many single mothers, it is logical to assume that a lot of people come from single-parent families, which means that their perception of the problem can hardly be unbiased. The researcher’s personal background can, therefore, act as a significant factor determining the way he/she approaches the study of the problem. In this particular case, Cherlin is right suggesting that the issue will be interpreted differently if it happens to a person as compared to the same problem across society.
In general, Americans estimate any issue as for its costs/benefits. In this respect, their view of single mothers is considerably prejudiced. For example, employers are not willing to hire single mothers not only because most of them have little to no education but also because they are more likely to take sick leaves to care for the child. This means that their employment is economically non-profitable. As a result, almost 8% of single mothers are unemployed and cannot find even a part-time job (as compared to 4% of the general unemployment level). If they want to continue their education, they automatically lose benefits and are likely to be fired (Duncan, Edwards, & Edwards, 2013). This is the cost of being a single mother in the US.
Yet, from the perspective of a researcher who comes from a single-parent household, the situation is not that terrible since a lot of benefits can be found in it. First and foremost, single mothers can indeed be better mothers as their whole attention belongs to their children. Second, single mothers usually invest all they earn in their children, trying to give them proper education and employment opportunities, which they themselves do not have. Third, children from single-parent families often turn out to be more psychologically stable than children from difficult families as they do not have to witness conflicts and are rarely subject to family violence.
Biased Response to the Problem
It is typical of researchers to share a bias that single-parent families are unsuitable for raising children. A good example of such biasing is the article titled Increased Health Risks of Children with Single Mothers: The Impact of Socio-Economic and Environmental Factors. The researchers suggest that single-parent households produce a negative impact on children’s health because they are brought up in poor conditions (low income and unfavorable places of residence with bad environmental characteristics).
As a result, they suffer from overweight, asthma, heart conditions, psychological problems, and other diseases (Scharte & Bolte, 2012). Although the research investigates an important topic, the bias can be identified by the conclusion made: The researchers state that family type directly influences child health as children from single-mother households suffer from diseases much more often. Such biasing matters a lot since it makes the reader believe that single parenting is an automatically negative phenomenon, which is not true. It is important to eliminate this prejudiced view to make it possible for single mothers to be perceived as normal members of society.
The methodology could be improved by shifting the focus of attention from family type to real problems that have to be overcome to eliminate the problems with child health. In fact, the current position of single mothers can be accounted for by weak social-safety networks, the absence of child support, and the inability to receive a high-quality education. The issue of education deserves separate attention as in the age of globalization the level of education predetermines the future well-being of a person as well as his/her ability to find a job that would allow providing for a family.
If the researchers viewed the problem from this perspective, findings would change drastically. It would be clear for the reader that since mothers usually have to work hard and combine it with childcare, it is really challenging for them to find time for college and provide more adequate living conditions for their children. Thus, the question that arises is: Why do policy-makers ignore the problem doing nothing to make it easier for single mothers to receive a degree? It is rather hard to give an answer.
Most states do not consider education as work, which means that all benefits for studying mothers will be lost (including cash assistance). Even various educational programs for working mothers do not guarantee that it will be possible to combine full-time classes with work. Moreover, in more than 50 percent of all cases, single mothers report that welfare caseworkers hinder their strivings to receive higher education, steering them to hard and low-paid labor. Understanding all these factors will change the audience’s perception of the issue and make social activists struggle not against single parenthood but against the neglect of policymakers, which is the real problem.
Carlson, A. (2012). The fifties illusion: The cultural dry rot that doomed the postwar era. The Family in America, 26(2), 127-137.
Duncan, S., Edwards, R., & Edwards, R. (2013). Single mothers in international context: Mothers or workers? London, UK: Routledge.
Esping‐Andersen, G., & Billari, F. C. (2015). Re‐theorizing family demographics. Population and Development Review, 41(1), 1-31.
Scharte, M. & Bolte, G. (2012). Increased health risks of children with single mothers: the impact of socio-economic and environmental factors. The European Journal of Public Health, 23(3), 469-475.
Semenova, N. S., Kiseleva, E. V., Ilyashevich, M. V., & Alisievich, E. S. (2015). Traditional values and human rights of LGBT under the contemporary international law. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 6(5), 305-312.