From the beginning of the 21st century, there is a trend of the increasing number of single-parent families in the US, European countries, China, and Africa. This tendency is characteristic for families across cultures and ethnicities as it involves White people, Asians, African-Americans, and many other nations. For example, as reported by the Census Bureau, in 2019, 15.8 million children lived with a single mother, and 3.2 million lived with a single father in the US (Duffin). In 2019, more than 20 families in China had one parent, and it is a mother in 70% of cases (Chen et al. 316). As for South Africa, Roman states that divorce rates increased to 35% of all married couples, which means that children have to live with one of their parents (578). Although governments make some efforts to support single-parent families, their number and problems grow, and it is important to provide additional financial and social aid to help them adjust to new realities, as well as prevent divorces at a larger scale.
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Reasons for Helping Single-Parent Families
Among the challenges that are created by the identified situation, there are social, economic, and psychological difficulties, which limit the opportunities of both parents and children to live a full and successful life. While single parents often face insufficient financial provision, gender-role absence leads to serious consequences for children’s social adjustment. As found in the study by Chen, the proportion of masculine traits in girls who were raised by single fathers was high (319). Accordingly, girls who had only a mother showed higher feminine traits, and boys raised by fathers had expressed masculine traits. The mentioned study also identifies that androgyny is “the mainstream of gender-role type in the single-parent groups” (Chen 320). In addition, families with a higher income are likely to have more cultural and social ties, which impact the parental child-rearing approach. Those who have a low income are impacted by increased expectations regarding their children and gender stereotypes.
Another argument for the immediate action to support single-parent families is the negative influence on student academic performance. A student achievement gap is discussed by Woessmann, who paid attention to the global trends of the impact of single-parent families on academic success in children (46). The author states that the majority of such families are headed by mothers, while the review of the US, Belgium, Netherlands, and other countries demonstrates that an average child that has only one parent also has lower grades. For example, in the US, the average difference between children from intact and single-parent families is about one grade or 28 points. In Belgium, this disparity archives 35 points, and it is below 10 points in Italy, Germany, and Portugal. Accordingly, special aid is necessary to help children in advancing their process of education.
Although single-parent families became more prevalent within the last decades, some studies show that children from divorced single-parent families are not disadvantaged. Zhang claims that children who lived with divorced mothers perform as those from intact families (89). The educational gradient is found to be positive in Chinese single-mother families, which is related to the fact that divorce is prevalent in economically-advantaged regions of the country. It means that single mothers have enough resources to providforto their children and help them in achieving higher educational attainment. Zhang also states that the benefits of single motherhood include urban residency, better parental awareness, and a lack of financial difficulties (89).
However, in the majority of countries across the world, single-parenting is associated with poverty and blended family roles. Many parents lack knowledge on child-raising, which leads to problems with social adaptation and education. According to the study by Zhang, single-father families can be considered disadvantaged as they do not have sufficient bonds with children. Therefore, there is a need for social assistance programs that would educate single parents on handling the emerging challenge. For example, counseling services can be provided to those who have emotional and psychological issues, while employment opportunities are also important for families with low income or lack thereof. For children having only one parent, social adjustment assistance is critical to prevent misunderstanding with peers and support their academic progress (Woessmann 48). Both parents and children should be taught to apply some strategies for coping with conflicts and disappointment to avoid further psychological complications. The main goal of assistance should be building strong relationships within single-parent families, as well as connecting them to communities.
To conclude, it should be stated that this paper proposes an immediate action to assist single-parent families in their adaptation to new conditions. Considering social and financial pressure, such families should be provided with programs and allowances, so that they can meet their essential needs. Single parenting is associated with children’s social adjustment problems, poor academic performance, and a lack of proper relationships with a mother or father. Even though it was found that single mothers in China can have high incomes and provide for their children, it does not apply to the US and other countries. The main goal of financial, social, and psychological assistance should be building strong relationships within single-parent families, as well as connecting them to communities.
Chen, I‐Jun, et al. “The Model of Children’s Social Adjustment under the Gender‐Roles Absence in Single‐Parent Families.” International Journal of Psychology, vol. 54, no. 3, 2019, pp. 316-324.
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Duffin, Erin. “Number of U.S. Children Living in a Single Parent Family 1970-2019.” Statista, Web.
Roman, Nicolette Vanessa. “Maternal Parenting in Single and Two-Parent Families in South Africa from a Child’s Perspective.” Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, vol. 39, no. 5, 2011, pp. 577-585.
Woessmann, Ludger. “An International Look at the Single-Parent Family.” Education Next, vol. 15, no. 2, 2015, pp. 42-49.
Zhang, Chunni. “Are Children from Divorced Single-Parent Families Disadvantaged? New Evidence from the China Family Panel Studies.” Chinese Sociological Review, vol. 52, no. 1, 2020, pp. 84-114.