We live in a world where the term “normal” is impossible to define and facts about single parenting show that a family, in whatever form it might take, is still a family. The dream of mom, dad and a couple of kids living in harmony in a house with a white picket fence is just that, a dream. Mom might have to be both mom and dad and dad could well be an uncle or grandfather. Facts about single parents show that it is the quality of the home and upbringing that matters more than the presence of both parents.
Facts About Single Parenting – The Real Deal
Most single parents are women. This is one of the most reliable facts about single parenting which apply everywhere, from Africa to America to Europe. Single mothers consistently outnumber single fathers by a ratio of about four to one. There are several types of single mothers so it is impossible to put any of them into a box and give them a one size fits all description. Single mothers could be any one of the following:
- The unwed mother
- The choice mother
- The divorced mother
- The separated, deserted or widowed mother
- The single mother whose husband is incarcerated or works far from home
The Unwed Mother
Unwed mothers are, more often than not, teenage girls who have elected to keep their babies rather than give them up for adoption. These young mothers are forced to grow up very quickly with the added responsibility of a child to take care of. Many struggle to finish school whilst caring for an infant and further education is often not an option for them. The education of the mother is a crucial determinant of her ability to thrive as a mother and one that requires attention in assessing facts about single parenting. They tend to miss out on a large part of their youth when they are prematurely thrust headlong into adulthood. This has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are in developing a stronger sense of self and an independent attitude. Having a child can quickly make you get your priorities straight. The disadvantages are the inevitable stresses, including the physical, financial and emotional ones that accompany raising a child. Resentment and regret over lost opportunities and guilt about not being able to provide the child with the best can all play havoc with their ability to raise the child in a healthy way. An unfortunate fact is that this group tends to suffer the most financial hardship.
Older women who fall into this category are often in the work force already and have to juggle the new role of mother with the rest of their life. The choice to keep a child without having a partner with whom to share the upbringing is a huge, life changing decision. One undeniable fact among the many facts about single parenting is that no one can adequately prepare you for the impact a child can have on your existence. This impact can be both negative and positive. On the negative side is the amount of time and effort required to nurture a new born baby. This is huge and often overwhelming at the beginning. The lack of sleep, coupled with the enormous task of adequately feeding and caring for a tiny being, is one of the most trying aspects. On the positive side is the unquestionable miracle of a child. Having one changes you in unexpected ways and forces you to stretch yourself and grow. A child can bring out the very best in people when they realize they can no longer conduct their lives from a selfish point of view.
The Choice Mother
The choice mother refers to the unmarried woman who chooses to have a baby, either by artificial insemination or some other means. She is normally financially independent, although not necessarily so. Often these women cannot wait any longer for the right partner to come along before starting a family and opt to get pregnant before it is too late. Having a child under these circumstances requires a fair amount of determination and motivation, as well as the necessity to withstand criticism for her choices from detractors. One heartening fact among single parenting facts is that children can grow up to be quite well adjusted, happy individuals even if they come from a single parent household.
The Divorced Mother
Divorced mothers make up the biggest percentage of single mothers and they often cannot rely on their ex partners for financial assistance. There is often a fair amount of acrimony between divorced partners and this is very stressful for the children.
The Working Parent
Most single parents have to work. To a single, working parent time can become the most precious commodity. Just trying to fit everything into the day and still be available for their children’s emotional and psychological needs can be a tricky juggling act that requires dedication and perseverance.
Money, Money, Money
Finances are always a major concern for single parents. Many of the problems and so called facts about single parenting associated with single parents and their children arise from lack of finances and are not necessarily due to their single parent status. Many women manage work and child care alone, whilst under half receive maintenance from the other parent.
Facts About Single Parenting and the Myth of Marriage
Many people assume that children raised in single parent households are somehow disadvantaged and necessarily lacking in some way. Facts about single parenting often take the stand that the traditional two parent family unit is considered to be the ideal and so anything dissimilar is, by definition, less than ideal. Much has been said about the negative emotional and psychological effects of a single parent upbringing on children and the impact this has on their education and well-being. Is this information fact or merely opinion?
A study conducted at Cornell University in 1999 and a follow-up study in 2004 disputes the notion that single parenthood is essentially bad for children and shows a more favorable assessment of facts about single parenting. Emeritus professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell, Henry Ricciuti, states “The findings suggest that in the presence of favorable maternal characteristics, such as education and positive child expectations, along with social resources supportive of parenting, single parenthood in and of itself need not to be a risk factor for a child’s performance in mathematics, reading or vocabulary or for behavior problems”.
He further points out the fact that in many cases single mothers do not have the necessary social, economic or parenting resources required for effective parenting. “Potential risks to single-parent children could be greatly reduced or eliminated with increased parental access to adequate economic, social, educational and parenting supports”, Ricciuti concludes. This suggests that it is the parent’s abilities and attitudes that are important, not their status as single parents per se. This puts a completely different light on the generally accepted facts about single parenting that assume it is a less than ideal situation. Where poverty and lack of education have a negative impact on children it is those factors that need to be addressed alone, rather than those factors in relation to single parenting.
Many people stay in unhappy marriages because of their children. Many single women and men with children consider remarriage mainly for the sake of their children. There are strong social and economic pressures which push them in that direction. Some welfare policies actively encourage marriage because they view it to be in the best interests of the child. This assumption is a dangerous and erroneous one. An unhappy marriage which undermines the confidence or self-esteem of either party is detrimental to both the parents and the children. A marriage where there is substance abuse or violence is a far worse situation than a calm single parent household. In compiling facts about single parenting one needs to recognize that one happy single parent is a much better state of affairs for all concerned, including the children, than two unhappy parents. Quite a few recent studies bear out these facts about single parenting.
Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University would agree. She studied the effect of high-conflict families on adolescents. The upshot of the study showed that children from stepfather and single mother families do no worse than children in high-conflict married homes and she said “The odds of binge drinking are about a third higher for children from high-conflict families compared to single-mother families”, Further, her comment on policies encouraging marriage states that they “need to take account of how variation within marriage relates to child well-being”.
An interesting fact among single parenting facts comes from a study into the effect of having a grandparent in the same house as a single parent which showed that children’s test scores were just as good as when both parents lived together. This too flies in the face of the notion that a married couple is the best situation in which to bring up a child.
Another study by Claire Kamp Dush, assistant professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University, showed that many of the benefits believed to be derived from married households are in fact due more to the stability of the home than merely the presence of both parents as a married couple. In other words a stable single parent household is just as beneficial to the children, which is a point not really mentioned in previous facts about single parenting. She said “Our results suggest that the key for many children is growing up in a stable household, where they don’t go through divorce or other changes in the family – whether that is in a single-parent home or a married home”. Her study did not just make a comparison between homes of single parents and married parents, but examined the stability of those homes as well. This was based on whether there had been any sort of trauma like divorce or other major change for the children.
The TANF program, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, run by the Federal government actively promotes and advocates marriage. Kamp Dush has this to say about it, “Based on this study, we can’t say for sure that marriage will be a good thing for the children of single mothers – particularly if that marriage is unhealthy and does not last”, she said.
More Positive Facts About Single Parenting
Whilst we cannot ignore the negative facts about single parenting of increased stress, loneliness and financial strain associated with solo parenthood, there are quite a few positive facts that support it. The first of these is the bond that develops between a single parent and their offspring is normally a much stronger and closer one than in two parent families. A single parent is much more likely to include a child in decisions and discussions than a parent who has the other parent to confide in. A child brought up in a home where he is expected to make a contribution by helping around the house is likely to be an independent and level-headed person. A single parent has neither the time nor the means to mollycoddle their kids. They cannot afford to be overprotective and overindulgent. This means their children are generally more self-sufficient, responsible and more confident of their abilities. These are all great attitudes to foster in a child. These are all optimistic facts about single parenting that show the up-side of the situation.
Single parents feeling guilt and anguish over their status as sole providers for their children can take heart that it is not all bad news. The aforementioned studies all show how facts about single parenting can be viewed from very different vantage points and that statistics and opinions are not necessarily to be trusted blindly. The most important factors seem to be the stability, consistency and commitment of the parent more than the presence of both parents. If the home is loving, safe and stable, with an emphasis on dependable discipline and boundaries, these facts about single parenting show that a child can indeed thrive.