Single-Parent Families: Developmental Positive and Negative Consequences for Children

Published: 2021-08-02
1849 words
7 pages
16 min to read
University of California, Santa Barbara
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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A single parent family is the one composed of a child or children being raised by one of the parents, either the father or the mother, without physical assistance of the other biological parent. Reasons for single parenthood could be divorce, separation, death, or a parent who has never been married. Middle childhood is the period between ages 6 and 12. This is the period that a child develops foundational skills for building healthy social relationships and learn roles that will prepare them for adolescence and adulthood.

Single parent families are quite common in the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, 2013, 28% of the children were living with a single parent with 85% of these children living with their mother. Most single parents are divorced, separated, or widowed while others have never been married. The type of a family a child is brought up in plays a significant role in the development of that child. Single parenthood is on the rise with the increased number of divorce and separation cases. The effects of single parenthood on the development of the child are both to the advantage and disadvantage of the child. This paper is set to discuss the developmental positive and negative consequences for children resulting from single-parent families.

Social Stigmas of Single-Parenting and the Consequences for the Child

Despite single-parent families being on the rise in America, single parents still face social stigmas which in turn affects their children directly or indirectly. One of the stigmas is the notion of irresponsibility attached to single parents. This is attached to the idea that most single parents are young, and for this, it is taken that they had their children out of reckless behavior. For this reason, children of single parents are likely to be treated differently in the community in connection with their parents. For instance, they can be bullied by other children, particularly if the single parent is a mother and is taken to be weak to retaliate. Two, todays culture still holds onto the belief that co-parenting is the ideal family. Children from these families are considered disadvantaged and probably lacking in some privileges that result from both parents being present. Third, children from nuclear families may tend to look down on children from single-parent families if they miss out on some events or programs probably because their parents could not afford. Four, they may also be taunted with questions about their absent parent which may affect them emotionally and psychologically. Five, single parents and their children get exempted from functions that require attendance from married couples only. This act of being left out may impact a feeling of inferiority on these children, affecting their interactions with other people.

These social stigmas and cultural perceptions affect not only the children but also the single parents. This is because if one is affected, the other will feel the impact directly or indirectly. Evidence shows that children from single-parent families do less well on average compared to children who live with both parents (Sahu, 2016). They are reported to perform poorer in school, obtain fewer years of schooling, and have challenges keeping up a steady job as young adults. This situation is associated with the minimal contact with parents, economic difficulties, stress, parents adjustment and competence, and the stigma directed to a single parenthood setting. However, the level to which the children are affected depends on the parenting style applied by the single parent since there are some who impact positively on their children who in return exhibit performance similar to children in co-parent settings.

Quality time that a parent spends with his or her child is critical since it is at such moments that he or she imparts parental skills on the child. One challenge experienced by single parents is to balance their availability to the children with work and other life activities. Working to fend for the family needs could turn hectic to parents with some having to take more than one job to sustain their families. In such cases, they may miss the opportunity to spend quality time with their children, or have minimal time which is not impactful. On the other hand, there are those parents who will put efforts and create opportunities to spend quality time with their children amidst a busy schedule or otherwise. This affects the development of the child positively. A child whose parent spends quality time with will portray a well-ordered life than a child whose parent hardly has time to spend together (Daryanani, Hamilton, Abramson, & Alloy, 2016). Such a child will make better decisions since they have their parents to consult. When a parent hardly spends time with his or her children, they are likely to adopt any form of behavior from peers or social media. They can also experience psychological disorders since they have no one with whom to talk. Their adolescent age is likely to be troubled since the parent is not available to offer the much-needed counsel at this age.

Socioeconomic factors significantly affect single parenthood. Parents have to work extra hard to fend for their families. The welfare system in America has a section for single parents where those who are needy are provided with financial assistance. This forms one of the solutions to the financial crisis of many single parents especially the unemployed. Raising a child can be overwhelming if done by one parent since children financial needs are many including school fee, medical cover, recreational, and maintenance funds. Socioeconomic factors affect the way the child turns out (Pearl, French, Dumas, Moreland, & Prinz, 2014). Children that grow up in financially stable homes tend to do better in life. They have higher self-confidence and esteem, perform better in school, and can make better decisions since they have learned to choose from a variety of options. On the other hand, children growing up from low-income families usually do not make it to higher levels of education. They are likely to drop out of school and start fending for themselves at a young age than should be the case. These children are likely to engage in illegal businesses to support themselves since they do not have qualifications to earn them a decent job. The cycle of poverty is likely to continue even with the children and their children after them.

Cognitive Development: Positive/Negative Consequences of Single-Parent Families

The family structure in which a child is reared in contributes to the cognitive development of the child as relates to general information processing and academic performance. Research has shown that a significant number of children in single-parent families perform relatively lower than those reared in two-parent families regardless of race, education, or parental remarriage (Colalillo, & Johnston, 2016). These children are more likely to face higher levels of academic difficulties and higher levels of emotional, psychological, and behavioral problems. This is because the family structure and the parent heading the family influences how a child turns out. The causal mechanisms for the differences include economic status, parental socialization, childhood stress, and maternal psychological well-being. These factors could be operating autonomously or collectively. The cognitive developmental effects can be grouped into childs performance, responsibility and accountability, and self-concept.

Economic status is a major mediator of the effects of family structure on young adults. This is because economic status and family structure are correlated. Low income has been reported to have negative consequences on children. Female-headed families are more likely to be poorer than those of married partners. Children who experience persistent poverty face developmental deficits. This could be because low-income families are unable to afford adequate basic needs that foster healthy cognitive and social development of children. The type of neighborhood that they live in is likely to be one that does not boost positive peer influence and achievement. These children are likely to miss school occasionally due to fee problem. These factors negatively affect their cognitive development and performance at school (Ermisch & Francesconi, 2001). Additionally, poverty and economic stress may lead to less effective parenting. Where the parent is supposed to be a role model and teach the children about responsibility and accountability, he is she is overwhelmed with parental struggles and does not affect these traits on the child. Socialization at home impacts on the childs outcome since it is during such times that encouragement and discipline are affected. With only one parent available to provide both economic and parental resources, it is difficult to balance these demands, and this results in less investment in monitoring and socializing with children.

Stress and maternal psychological well-being also impact on the outcome of the child. Children who experience divorce from their parents and undergo the transition to the new structure of single parent often develop stress in adapting to the new environment. Single mothers report higher cases of depression and lower level of psychological functioning which can trickle down to their children (Meier, Musick, Flood, & Dunifon, 2016). These affect the behavior and adaptation of the child to the situation. This is because lower psychological well-being leads to inferior parenting practices and may cause the parent to have a negative outlook of the child thus increasing her perception of behavior problems (Maurya, Parasar, & Sharma, 2015). Children in such families develop an autonomous self-concept since the parent is either not fit to provide adequate supervision or is not unavailable. Most children from single-parent families develop independence at an early stage which they carry through adulthood. They are able to make own decisions with minimal consultation or none at all. A dependent self-concept is developed when the parent is available to provide the childcare that is needed. The parent influences the decision making of the child and is supportive where needed. This is mostly in cases where the single parent has the support of relatives such that he or she can provide parental attention to the child. For the dependent self-concept, children tend to rely on the assistance of their parents even in adolescent and young adulthood years. They are likely to make informed decisions since they have the help of an adult.

Emotional and Social Development Consequences of Single-Parent Families


Research studies have revealed that single-parent families encounter emotional and social challenges in running their homes. The level at which different families are affected differ depending on the stability of the family and the support they receive from relatives and friends. The effects are felt by both the parent and the children either directly or indirectly. The emotional effects are on self-esteem, stress and coping strategies, and conflicts and how these are handled. The social stigma and cultural misconceptions directed on single parents can affect their self-confidence and lower their self-esteem. For instance, when a single parent is defined and treated by society as irresponsible, she may feel like the efforts she is making are not enough and that she is not a good enough parent for her child. If the children are not performing as she would expect, she is likely to blame this on her parenting. However, there are some single parents who brave the stigma and boost on their self-confidence especially if they believe th...

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