In the past decades, the numbers of single parents have significantly become common. As a result, we have all manner of single-parent families in the world. The head of the household maybe mothers, fathers, or in some cases, grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. Past studies have shown that the number of single mother families rose from “12 percent to 36 percent (three million to ten million) between 1970 and 2003 in the US” (Huffman, Kanikireddy and Patel 2800). Between the same period, the number of single father families increased by five percethe nt. This represented an increment from a half of a million to over two million homes. The possible causes for such increments may result from late marriages and high rates of divorce. Late marriages usually have many non-marital births.
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We have to note that single parent homes have various sorts of problems for adults, children, and other dependents. Families of single parents cannot function like other nuclear families. For instance, a single parent may have difficulties in raising children, attending work, and meeting other needs of the family. In cases of breakups, financial problems may drastically affect the family.
Therefore, single parent families have to face some issues and potential problems, which most nuclear households do not experience. Some of these problems may include:
- Custody squabbles
- Visitation problems
- Consequences of prolonged conflicts between parents
- Family ties breakdown
- Effects of peer pressures and school performance
- The presence of a new or a step parent into the lives of the children
Single parent homes can find solutions to face their problems and live like other nuclear families. Some useful sources of support may include support organizations, friends, professional bodies, extended family members, and churches among others.
This article looks at some problems, which single parent homes experience from scholarly perspectives. Thus, it covers various issues that affect single parent homes.
Some studies have concentrated on how a structure of a family may influence the well-being of children. Waldfogel, Craigie, and Brooks-Gunn identified five ways in which a family structure affected the well-being of children. These include: “parental resources, parental mental health, parental relationship quality, parenting quality, and father involvement” (Waldfogel, Craigie, and Brooks-Gunn 87).
However, studies have not established how these factors influence children well-being and outcomes. These authors noted that relationships between broken homes and child outcomes were not the same. For instance, they noted that family instability had significant influences on a family structure than other forms of outcomes such as behavior issues.
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Hemovich and Crano noted that adolescents from single parent homes were susceptible to delinquent behaviors and other forms of social misfits in society, including drug and alcohol abuse (Hemovich and Crano 2099). On the other hand, some studies have argued that compositions of homes have little impacts on adolescent behaviors or problems.
However, such studies have gone contrary to general finding on the issue. Hemovich and Crano show that children who live with single parents exhibit various forms of problems such as “emotional distress, negative behaviors, delinquency, and drug use” (Hemovich and Crano 2099). In addition, children from single parent homes experience challenges regarding availability of resources, more so in homes headed by women. Still, such children also get low-levels and inconsistent monitoring, which have contributed to their delinquency and drug abuse.
Zeiders, Roosa, and Tein looked at the relationship between family structures and family adjustment among single parent families of Mexican Americans (Zeiders, Roosa and Tein 77). According to a study by these researchers, adolescents from single parent homes had high-levels of “school misconduct, conduct disorder or oppositional deviant disorder symptoms, major depressive disorder, and high rates of parent-child conflict than their counterparts in two parent families” (Zeiders, Roosa and Tein 80).
Moreover, single parent mothers also reported high-levels of economic problems, stress, and depression. The researchers established that family stress and parent-child conflicts were common in single parent homes of Mexican Americans. In addition, these factors could explain the relations between early adolescent outcomes and family structures. Therefore, they are necessary for understanding problems among Mexican American single parents.
Some researchers have investigated effects of single parent homes on preschool children. Jackson, Preston and Franke used data from “a sample of 89 poor and near-poor single black mothers and their preschool children to study the influences of parenting stress, physical discipline practices, and nonresident fathers’ relations with their children on behavior problems in kindergarten” (Jackson, Preston and Franke 50). The study found out that high rates of stress among parents, child spanking, and few contacts with fathers had some behavior implications among children.
First, in some cases, teachers had cases of behavior problems among children. Second, increased visits and contacts from nonresident fathers controlled severe effects of cruel punishment imposed by mothers. This study shows that the absence of a father in the family leads to high rates of indiscipline among children. Moreover, any attempts to control such negative behaviors by mothers only increase the level of behavior problems among children. Therefore, the presence of a biological father in a home reduces cases of rebellion among preschool children.
Huffman, Kanikireddy, and Patel decided to investigate the relations between single parent and child obesity as a problem in single parent homes (Huffman, Kanikireddy and Patel 2800). These researchers noted that child obesity cases were on the rise in many households across the world. As a result, they linked parental status to issues like eating habits, blood cholesterol, and body weight.
They concluded that obesity problems among children had links to a single parent status. However, they proposed further studies to investigate the influence of single parent status on children’s diet and obesity. Parent and school involvement can address cases of obesity among children.
Improving Single Parent Homes
Some authors like Waldfogel and others have concluded that three types of policy reforms can address issues at single parent homes and their effects on children. They claim that we can reduce the number of children in fragile families by reducing unwanted births or enhancing family stability. Second, we can address challenges such families face by encouraging participation of both parents in raising children and providing the necessary resources. Third, we can focus directly on problems, which such children face, especially education, visitation, and behavior issues among others.
It is worth mentioning that this paper has focused on problems, which single-parent homes experience. However, there are also some elements of positive outcomes among such families. For instance, the dissolution of marriages affected by conflicts can reduce problems that arise from such conflicts. Children and parents have reported reduced cases of problems associated with nuclear families, which result from marital issues. Thus, single-parent homes may avoid problems associated with such nuclear families. However, problems of single-parent homes are numerous.
Hemovich, Vanessa and William Crano. “Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use: An Exploration of Single-Parent Families.” Subst Use Misuse 44.14 (2009): 2099– 2113. Print.
Huffman, Fatma, Sankarabharan Kanikireddy and Manthan Patel. “Parenthood—A Contributing Factor to Childhood Obesity.” Int J Environ Res Public Health 7.7 (2010): 2800–2810. Print.
Jackson, Aurora, Kathleen Preston and Todd Franke. “Single Parenting and Child Behavior Problems in Kindergarten.” Race Soc Probl. 2.1 (2010): 50–58. Print.
Waldfogel, Jane, Terry-Ann Craigie and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. “Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing.” Future Child 20.2 (2010): 87–112. Print.
Zeiders, Katharine, Mark Roosa and Jenn-Yun Tein. “Family Structure and Family Processes in Mexican American Families.” Fam Process 50.1 (2011): 77–91. Print.
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