By: Katie Ludwicki
“Being a single mother is twice the work, twice the stress, and twice the tears, but also twice the hugs, twice the love, and twice the pride”, a quote that many single mothers can relate to. Being raised solely by my mother has come with many challenges but has also taught me many things. I was able to not only witness both the physical and emotional strains, but also the benefits as well. My mom has taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons. One of the most important lessons was to obtain an education and be able to financially provide for myself, which I believe is an important lesson for all women to live by. This leads into the topic I will be arguing of child social disadvantages associated with single parenting.
With the divorce rate being so high in today’s society, it is important to understand single parenting and all it encompasses. The US divorce rate in 2019, was about 40-50% of all marriages that ended in divorce, which is an alarming number to many people. Not only is this a concern for marriages, but also the children are affected by this as well.About 25% of individuals, just over the age of 18, have experienced a parent’s divorce. This is why it is important to understand the phycological and sociological effects that it has on children living under these circumstances.”Divorce often creates significant stress that can have an impact on parent-child relationship satisfaction”, as well as social disadvantages (Murphy/Martin, 13). The findings below depict lifestyles of both single fathers and single mothers. Although, according to Cohen “most, but not all, of these single parents are women, who lead 82 percent of poor single-parent households” (Cohen, 417).
According to Cohen, “the most important factor separating children of single mothers from those whose parents are married and living together is simply their lower incomes” (Cohen, 145). Regarding poverty, “mothers raising children alone are more likely to be low-income, African American, and less educated. Their children typically have lower test scores, are more likely to drop out of school, and have greater emotional and behavioral difficulties” (Morsey/Rothstein, 10). Children living with single mothers, may not experience the same lifestyle as those living with married parents. Some of these disadvantages may include, time spent with each parent, schooling preferences, extracurricular activities/ sports, and even behavioral effects. With children being restricted from associating and interacting with other children, it could leave them at a severe social disadvantage.
First, we will be looking at the aspect of time spent with each parent. One aspect that one must consider, is that typically both parents must work. Cohen mentions how, “single mothers have less time to spend with their children than do married parents” (Cohen, 146) This is because single parents must work to support their families. Another area to consider, is when parents are divorced, a child typically splits their time with each parent. According to Richard Warshak, “children who spend at least 35 percent time with each parent, rather than live with one and visit the other, have better relationships with their fathers and mothers and do better academically, socially, and psychologically” (Warshak, 1). Keeping that in mind, children who have no interaction with either father or mother are at a severe disadvantage. Children who face complete absence of either parent, are more likely to smoke, drink, do drugs, and even face anxiety, depression and stress related illnesses. This lack of time spent with each parent also inhibits a child’s abilities in school. In an academic article written by Amoto, it is shown that,“During a divorce, children are often left to their own devices in terms of school, community interactions, and emotional processing” leaving children falling behind in comparison with other students (Amato, 125) . It also states the reason for this, “These children often fall behind in school as their parents have less time to spend coaching them in schoolwork” (Sandler, 3). Cohen ties this all together by saying “the lack of parental time cuts down on supervision and support for children as they mature” (Cohen, 146).
Next, it is important to look into the effects from the lack of socialization with other kids. As mentioned earlier, this comes from extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, and school activities. Studies show that due to the lack of income and poverty levels of single parents, children often do not have the opportunity to take part in these types of activities. A recent article mentions how, “the financial changes that a family generally experiences during divorce can be deleterious to children’s social opportunities” (Amoto, 127) leaving these children at a social disadvantage in comparison to children living with married parents. In an academic article titled, Extracurricular Activity Involvement and Adolescent Self-Esteem, it is stated that “Research has demonstrated a connection between structured activity involvement and several indicators of positive youth development”, which shows how important this aspect is in child development (Kort-Butler, 13). Involvement in extracurricular activities and sports can help a child’s self esteem as well as their socialization skills. This same study mentions how, “adolescents whose families can afford the costs of participation are also more likely to enroll” (Kort-Butler 13,). Proving that children with parents who cannot afford these activities are less likely to enroll.
With these findings in mind it is important to consider the institutions and areas that are affected. Looking further into single parenting, along with the United States, two international countries with the highest percent of single parents are Denmark and the United Kingdom. In both of these countries, women head about 88% of these households. “The largest increases in single parent households have been in industrialized countries”, two of these, as previously mentioned, being Denmark and the United Kingdom. “Lone mothers make up a quarter of all families with children in the United Kingdom and have been one of the key target groups for activation policies for the past two decades “(Millar,1). According to an academic article titled, One-Parent Families in Denmark, one can see a deep analysis of single- parent families within the country. According to the article, “During the last 10 to 15 years there has been a rapid increase in the number of divorces, from about 6,000 to now 13,000 per year, and minor children are found in 60% of the divorce cases” (Koch-Nielsen, 20). The graph below depicts Denmark, and the United Kingdom with the highest numbers of single parents within households.
The reason why these countries face the highest numbers is because it is more socially acceptable and there is no stigma, similar to the United States. Stigma can be defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”. This term usually leaves people feeling self-conscious about their decisions, based on how others perceive them. “It’s easier to be a single mother in Denmark than elsewhere because society accepts and supports you – we’re pretty liberal about most things”, stated in a recent web article. Women would rather solely raise their children themselves rather than stay in a toxic relationship. In other countries, women would be condemned for this which is why Denmark and the United Kingdom see higher rates of single mothers. These single parents are socially supported and are free to make their own decisions.
In conclusion, it can be seen that a “marital status is associated with children’s social-emotional development in very early childhood” and “this association may have cumulative consequences for individual development in later life stages” (Huang, Kim, Sherraden, Clancy 244). Unfortunately, it can be seen that children raised by single parents may face sociological disadvantages compared to other children. While these disadvantages can have lifelong effects on a child’s well-being, a parents love is unconditional. Life may bring about unfortunate circumstances, but how an individual responds can make all the difference.
“The depth of the love of parents for their children cannot be measured. It is like no other relationship. It exceeds concern for life itself. The love of a parent for a child is continuous and transcends heartbreak and disappointment.”
– James E. Faust
Key words: Poverty, Stigma, Divorce, Parenting, Male, Female
Cohen, Phillip. The Family. W.W. Norton, 2015.
Morsy, Leila, and Richard Rothstein. “Five Social Disadvantages That Depress Student Performance: Why Schools Alone Can’t Close Achievement Gaps.” Economic Policy Institute
American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/topics/divorce/.
“Shocking Statistics About Children and Divorce – Free Background Checks.” FreeBackgroundChecks.com, 11 July 2019, freebackgroundchecks.com/learn/shocking-statistics-children-and-divorce/.
Warshak, Richard A. “Kids Who Spend Time with Each Parent after a Divorce Have Better Health and Development, Research Shows.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 26 May 2017
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