Single Parenting: The Sociological Effects on Children

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.

Introduction

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).

Findings

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.

International Comparison

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.

Countries with the highest percentage of children aged 0-14 living with a single parent

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.

Conclusion

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

Citations

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

Amoto. Sandler. Ultius. “Children of Divorce: Sociological Study.” Ultiuswww.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/children-of-divorce-sociological-study.html

Scientist, The Spaced-Out. “Single Parents Worldwide: Statistics and Trends.” The Spaced-out Scientist, 11 Nov. 2017, spacedoutscientist.com/2017/07/18/single-parents-worldwide-statistics-and-trends/. 

Millar, Jane. “Self-Responsibility and Activation for Lone Mothers in the United Kingdom.” American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 63, no. 1, Dec. 2018, pp. 85–99., doi:10.1177/0002764218816804.

Amato, P. R. (2005). The impact of family formation change on the cognitive, social, and emotional well-being of the next generation. Future of Children, 15(2), 75–96. doi:10.1353/ foc.2005.0012.

Huang, Jin, et al. “Unmarried Mothers and Children’s Social-Emotional Development: The Role of Child Development Accounts.” Journal of Child and Family Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, 2016, pp. 234–247., doi:10.1007/s10826-016-0551-1.

Kort-Butler, Lisa A. “Extracurricular Activity Involvement and Adolescent Self-Esteem.” PsycEXTRA Dataset, 2012, doi:10.1037/e535002013-004.

Koch-Nielsen, Inger. “One-Parent Families in Denmark.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. 11, no. 1

Murphy, Kelly L., et al. “Parental Stress and Parent-Child Relationships in Recently Divorced, Custodial Mothers.” European Journal of Educational Sciences, vol. 05, no. 02, 2018, doi:10.19044/ejes.v5no2a1.

7 thoughts on “Single Parenting: The Sociological Effects on Children

  1. Hi Katie,
    I enjoyed reading your post and really appreciated the personal touch you added to it. I think it only made the information you provided within your post to be all the more powerful. The statistic that really shocked me was that 40-50 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. I wonder out of those divorces, how many of those couples have children and how many of those families have a parent who possesses sole custody of the children? Unfortunately, I was not too surprised having learned from Cohen that women are the ones that “lead 82 percent of poor single-parent households” (417). I liked the inclusion of the chart that compares the single-mother versus single- father households in various countries. I did not expect Denmark to be the country with most single- parent homes. This made me wonder how couples in Denmark differ from those in Ireland, who are lowest on the list.

    Like

  2. Hi Katie, I really enjoyed reading your website! I love that you chose a topic so personal to you, it really added a lot to the website to see your point of view. I was extremely surprised to learn that around 40-50% of all marriages end in divorce. I don’t know many people with divorced parents so that was interesting to learn. Cohen says that “there is no dispute that divorce is vastly more common today than it was a century ago” (362). I wonder if this rate will continue to rise over the next century again. I really liked the chart you included that compared the countries with single parents. From my research website, I found that the Roman Catholic church had a strong, powerful influence over the country for many years. I wonder if that strong influence has to do with the fact that Ireland is so low on the list. I never thought about how single parent households might not have been able to pay for their children’s extracurricular activities such as dance or sports and how that could negatively affect a child. I always looked forward to my sports after school when I was younger, especially elementary school. Sports are where I met some of my best friends who are still my best friends today. Overall, I loved your website and found it extremely interesting.

    Like

  3. Hi Katie,

    I think you wrote about a really important topic here. The statistics you used regarding single mothers and the effects that it has on children is very sad. I absolutely believe the statistic that you included that suggests that children raised by single parents are at a disadvantage to children that are not. The program that Cohen talks about on page 418 where the government would pay the child support for the absent fathers is a great idea. The amount of money the government would have to pay may not be as much people think, but would help these children get the opportunities that they deserve. Great job, Katie!!

    Marissa

    Like

  4. 3. Hi Katie! I enjoyed reading your response. This topic is very interesting and also very relevant to many people in the world. This made me think about how different the roles of the household are throughout the world and the impact that this can have on the family dynamic. I connected how the number of women who are working in the United States has increased with your mentioning that the majority of single parents are women. I thought about this a lot when you discussed the financial impact of being a single parent. It is interesting to think about the broader concept of women in the workplace in the United States compared to other countries and the unique issues that they face. For example, “Among full-time workers in all occupations in 2015, women’s median earnings were just 81 percent of men’s” (Cohen, pg. 191, 2018). This is especially problematic for single parent households run by women. Fortunately, this wage gap has continuously decreased, and new strides for equality with women in the work place continue to advance. It will be interesting to see more changes occur between women in the workforce and the dynamic of single parents, especially as more women receive an increase in pay.

    – Madelyn McMahon

    Cohen, P. N. (2018). The family: diversity, inequality, and social change. New York: W.W.
    Norton & Company.

    Like

  5. Hi Katie, I really enjoyed reading your research analysis! It was especially interesting to read because of your integration of you personal story into the analysis. As stated by Cohen, “Most American parents try very hard to help their children succeed”, and one parent families must strive even harder to help their children achieve their goals (Cohen 150). Your point that it is not about a child’s situation that truly impacts their future, but their reaction to it, is very astute and sounds to be true to your experiences growing up.

    Like

  6. Hi Katie!
    I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I thought you did a great job explaining the effect that children face growing up in a single parent household. Although I can’t relate, I thought it was really cool that you were able to use a topic that is personal to you! As the divorce rate continues to increase, it will be interesting to see how many people choose not to get married because they do not want it to end in a divorce. During the late 1950s, according to Cohen, “the fact that divorce was so common affected the decisions people made about whether to get married, whom to marry, whether and when to have children – and everything in between” (Cohen 372). It will be interesting to watch history repeat itself. Overall, great job!

    Like

  7. Hi Katie! I enjoyed reading your response. This topic is very interesting and also very relevant to many people in the world. This made me think about how different the roles of the household are throughout the world and the impact that this can have on the family dynamic. I connected how the number of women who are working in the United States has increased with your mentioning that the majority of single parents are women. I thought about this a lot when you discussed the financial impact of being a single parent. It is interesting to think about the broader concept of women in the workplace in the United States compared to other countries and the unique issues that they face. For example, “Among full-time workers in all occupations in 2015, women’s median earnings were just 81 percent of men’s” (Cohen, pg. 191, 2018). This is especially problematic for single parent households run by women. Fortunately, this wage gap has continuously decreased, and new strides for equality with women in the work place continue to advance. It will be interesting to see more changes occur between women in the workforce and the dynamic of single parents, especially as more women receive an increase in pay.

    – Madelyn McMahon

    Cohen, P. N. (2018). The family: diversity, inequality, and social change. New York: W.W.
    Norton & Company.

    Like

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