Dear Single Parents, You’re Not the Enemy
In the past twenty years we, as the populous of the Western world, have experienced an incredible sociocultural revolution. We have experienced great growths in basic freedoms and acceptance of different lifestyles and choices in thereof. Ironically, this “freedom” of will and expression has caused a paradigm shift in our modern marriage culture.
Between the years 1970 and 2000 the United States experienced exponential growth in the divorce rate, reaching unprecedented levels and leading a huge surge in single-parent families. We’ve also experienced a huge increase in children conceived outside of marriage. The children of these kinds of families are just now coming to full term, and there’s been a plethora of research into the topic. Just what are the effects of single-parent parenting?
While there are other reasons why a parent may end up with the full brunt of child-rearing such as the tragic death of a partner, divorce altogether outnumbers these instances by a significant amount. Regardless of its cause, single parent parenting is shown to have negative effects on children. However, the news may not be as bad as you think.
JUST WHO EXACTLY ARE THESE SINGLE PARENTS?
Statistically speaking, women tend to make up the vast majority of single parents with a whopping 87% as of 1980, and this number has only increased. This is common knowledge for some, but what is not so well-known is that the single-parent to dual parent ratio increases based off of several other factors as well. Studies over several years have shown that urban areas tend to be higher in single-parent families than rural, largely due to both the density of the population and the fact that single-parent families are influenced by culture and environment.
It is thought that events such as divorce and conceiving out of wedlock are far more accepted in larger cities than their small town counterparts. This is important information as it is shown that the number of children who come from single parent families in a classroom can affect the educational performance of the whole class.
YOU’RE NOT THE BAD GUY
While initially it was thought that the actual absence of a parent itself was the trauma causing problems in children, more and more research is proving this to not be entirely correct. Several factors are now considered to play an important role in a child’s development post-loss, such as the role of the parent in the parent-child relationship. While studies show that most two parent families tend to be more authoritative or authoritarian type relationships and less permissive and neglectful than single-parents, these are avoidable actions by parents and speaks more for a parent’s own style of parenting than the actual divorce or loss itself.
Permissive and neglectful style parenting tend to be more prevalent in single parent families because of the intense stress levels and emotional distress of the parents themselves. This is critical to understanding recovery processes and ensuring the best for your child. In essence, making sure that you get the proper emotional help and support you need leads to better care for your child.
WHAT’S THE MAGIC NUMBER?
Another factor influencing your child’s development is their age. Studies done in 1995 showed that children in pre-school or younger during the loss of a parent experienced no differences in social, cognitive, or behavioral skills. Even so, parents who lose, or have not had, their partner as their child is a pre-schooler tend to experience higher levels of stress than those with children of any other age group.
Adversely, teenagers who lost a parent experienced a decrease in educational performance and social interaction, and an increase in attitude problems. However, this could be in part because of the fact that they’re, well… teenagers, and we all know how they are *cue the eye rolling*. It is also important to realize that re-stabilizing of a child’s life takes two to three years, regardless of age.
MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND
The loss of a parent also typically results in decrease in income regardless of whether it is the loss of the mother or the father. This loss in income can lead to uprooting such as moving or changing of schools and loss of community resources. Single parent children who experience this are far more likely to drop out of school and be single parents themselves as they grow up.
However, studies are now showing that parents who stay in an unhappy dual parent relationship may be having terrible effects on their children as well. Kids of families who were together and unhappy show a drastic rate of unhappiness in their own marriages when they grow older. This is huge for parents who have experienced divorce as it is proof that a great many other factors play into the absence of a parent and that it is possible to mitigate potential problems with the proper information!
THAT’S GREAT, BUT WHAT CAN I DO?
Perhaps the most important idea to take away from this is that you cannot control everything, but there are many things you can. The growth and development of your child is dependent on a great many things other than the absence of a parent. You will, and always have, the ultimate power in bringing out the most in your child.
Daily interactions and discipline are tools for molding our children in the most efficient way, and no one technique works for every child. Armed with knowledge we can continue to go above and beyond for our children. By making sure they stay socially involved, invoking the correct parent-child relationship, and giving them as many opportunities to grow we can set them up for success in spite of circumstances.