Single Parent Living
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Families with children less than age 18 headed by a widowed, divorced or never married parent. One out of every two children at some point before they reach age 18 will live a single-parent in the United States. This is more than one-fourth of all children in the country.
The number of families with only one parent has increased substantially since 1950. About 11 percent of children were living in families with single-parents in the 1970’s, which was a year of common divorces. In the 1980’s the number peaked, then slightly declined in the 1990’s. About 31 percent of children were being raised by single-parents and in 2002, the number decreased slightly to 28 percent. Many children lived with a single-parent for quite a while before the parent remarried.
The reasons behind single-parent families have changed significantly. For instance, in the mid-twentieth century, the majority of single-parent families were a result of a spousal death. Divorce was the common reason in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Single parents simply never married for the majority of cases in the early 2000’s. Many single parents live with a partner, sometimes even the father who just never married the mother, however according to the Census Bureau these families still count as single-parent families. Parents who are away from each other for an extended period of time are also included in the single-parent families, such as a spouse away for a military deployment.
The most common situation of single-parent families consist of mothers and their biological children. Households headed by single fathers substantially increased in the 1980’s after reflecting society changes on the father’s role in child rearing. Only about 1 percent of children were living with a single father in 1970. The number increased to 5 percent in 2002. Single fathers, however are way more likely to be divorce rather than never married and more likely than mothers to share the home with an unmarried partner. The number of single-parent families considerably vary based on different racial and ethnic groups.
Adoption by individuals who are single have greatly increased. Only about 0.5 to 4 percent of adoptive parents in 1970 were single. The rate increased in the 1980’s from 8 to 34 percent according to the US Department of Health.
Special challenges are accompanied with single-parent families, one being economic. Twice as many single-parent families in 2002 earned less than $30,000.00 per year compared to two-parent families who 39 percent earned more than $75,000.00. Single-mother families earning that much was at a low 6 percent, with single-father families at 11 percent. Children living with single fathers seemed less likely to have health insurance coverage.
Children in a single-parent family environment are disadvantaged according to social scientists when compared to two-biological-parent families. Certain risks that these children are associated with are as follows:
· Lower educational achievement levels
· Twice as likely to not make it through school
· More likely to come a parent as a teenager
· Not as supervised by adults
· More conflicts with parent(s)
· Higher risk of sexual behavior
· More frequently to use drugs and alcohol
· More likely to become gang members
· Four times higher chance of behavioral and emotional problems
· More likely to participate in crimes
· More likely of having suicidal thoughts and committing suicide
· Twice likely to go to jail
· Twice as likely to get a divorce
Studies show that children living in a two-parent family with an abusive parent or one that has a higher level of antisocial behavior do not do as well as children with divorced parents or if children live in a single-parent family without a non-abusive parent.
Remember, every single-parent family is not the same. Children with divorce parents and those living with a widowed mother will have a different home life. Children with parents who are divorced will have a wide range of relationships with the parents, as well as the parents’ partners depending on the custody agreements. Even though children from a single-parent families often times face tougher times emotionally and economically than those from two-biological parent families, children CAN do well in school and maintain healthy relationships and behaviors from single-parent families.
It can be lonely and difficult to be a single parent. Often, there is no other adult that can share discipline, decision-making and financial responsibilities. The burden falls on one person to find responsible childcare and earn a living. However, there is usually a less negative effect on children who live with only one parent than with family instability, inconsistent enforcement and a lack of structure. Follow these steps for a positive experience for your children:
· Find childcare that is stable
· Establish and stick to a home routine
· Get to know important people in your child’s life (coaches, teachers, friends)
· Clearly and consistently apply discipline and rules
· Answer questions calmly and honestly about the other parent
· Avoid behaviors that cause the child to feel like they need to choose between their parents
· Honestly explain financial limitations
WHEN TO FIND HELP
If a parent is feeling as if their child is out of control or not responding to the parenting, they need to get him or her help from social service agencies, mental health professionals or from the child’s school. The parent or parents can also seek help if they feel their lives are falling apart from many organizations to provide support emotionally, financially or legally.