We compare children living with both biological parents, but whose parents differ in how often they argue, to children in stepfather and single-mother families, and we assess the extent to which differences can be understood in terms of family income and parenting practices. Living in single mother and stepfather families tend to be more strongly associated with our indicators of well-being, although differences between these family types and living with high conflict continuously married parents are often statistically indistinguishable.
Income and parenting largely do not account for associations between adolescent family type and later life outcomes. We conclude that while children do better, on average, living with two biological married parents, the advantages of two-parent families are not shared equally by all.
Most studies of family structure compare children in single-parent and stepparent families to those living with their married, biological parents, treating these marriages as a homogenous group. A somewhat employee behaviour questionnaire pdf body of work shows the importance of parental conflict for child outcomes.
Examining variation in conflict between married parents is important for social scientists because it expands our understanding of how families matter for children. It is also important for the broader public, with marriage emerging high on the U. Increasing marriage rates was an explicit goal of the welfare reform legislation and a key piece of the latest welfare reform re-authorization package Ooms, ; U.
DHHS The success of marriage promotion for the sake of children depends not just on the overall association between marriage and child well-being, but on how this association varies across marriages. Much of the demographic research on parental conflict and child outcomes stems from an interest in the divorce process e. Studies of this sort typically follow children living with continuously married parents and examine the role of parental conflict in explaining or conditioning the effects of subsequent marital disruption.
But many poor quality marriages survive, and children may experience parental conflict independent of divorce. Our analysis sets up a comparison to address whether children fare better living with both parents than living with just one, in particular, when parents do not get along.
We compare child outcomes across single-parent, stepparent, and high conflict continuously married-parent family types and test key explanations for observed associations. This work relies on all three waves of the National Survey of Families and Households NSFH ; to our knowledge, it is the first to use the recently fielded third wave to investigate these questions.
We provide a broad descriptive portrait of family structure, parental conflict, and child well-being, bringing together literatures on family structure and marital conflict.
When it Comes to Child Well-Being, Is One Parent the Same as Two?
Growing up without both parents is associated with a host of poor child outcomes. Most of this literature treats continuously married-parent families as a single, homogenous group. Another line of research has devoted attention to variation within continuously married two-parent families, particularly with respect to marital conflict.
Much of this work focuses on continuously married-parent families at initial observation and treats conflict as either a selection or moderating factor in the divorce process. Controlling for pre-disruption marital conflict, studies typically report that it accounts for some, but not all, of the association between marital disruption and academic achievement, problem behaviors, family-related transitions, and subjective well-being Cherlin et al.
Testing the moderating effect of conflict on divorce i. A few studies compare differences in child well-being by family structure, accounting for heterogeneity among continuously married-parent families in parental conflict — these are closest to what we set out to do.
This study is limited by its young sample, many of whom have not yet aged into adult transitions of interest. Their data come from a year study of individuals married at the first wave of data collection in ; they include child interviews in and Even with the rise in single-parent families, most children still live in two-parent households. Although many children raised in single-parent homes become successful adults, studies shows that children living in well-functioning, two-parent families have several advantages.
In a study published by Cornell University, researchers reported that children living with married, biological parents have lower levels of risk-taking behaviors. When compared to single-parent and step-parent families, these children reported lower levels of substance abuse such as smoking, drinking and drugs. Less likely to be sexually active when young and more likely to have long-lasting romantic relationships, children in this study were also more likely to start families at an older age and when they were married.
Living with two parents can lead to better health. They had excellent or very good physical and dental health and fewer injuries requiring medical attention.
In addition, these children were less affected by asthma and frequent headaches and less likely to miss more than 11 days of school due to illness. While nearly half of all single-mom families live in poverty, economic distress affects only one in 10 married families with children.
Two-parent households tend to live in better neighborhoods and their children attend better schools. The economic impact continues into the college years. When compared to single-parent families, two-parent households more closely monitor their children's behavior, knowing who they are with and where they are. According to the Policy Institute for Family Impact Seminars, this type of monitoring is a powerful predictor of whether children participate in problem behaviors.
When combined, monitoring and educational support account for a to percent increase in the well-being of a child raised in a two-parent home, when compared to a child from a single-parent family. She is an avid cook who lives on a hobby farm, direct-markets organic produce to local restaurants and has taught at the preschool, elementary and college levels.
Didier holds a Master of Arts in education from the University of Oregon. References The Annie E. Berger and Sara S. About the Author. Into astrology? Check out our Zodiac Center!Single-parent families in America have significantly increased in the last two decades, according to the American Psychological Association 1.
Some factors that contribute to single-parent families include divorce, incarceration, military service and death. Parents in single-parent families encounter numerous challenges as they have to work harder to meet the responsibilities of the absent parent. Single parenting may lead to consequences like child abuse, poor educational outcomes, poverty and poor social well-being. The Child Welfare Information Gateway reports that children raised in single-parent families have a higher risk of suffering abuse and neglect than those in two-parent families.
Children who live with single mothers have a higher risk of experiencing abuse than those who live with single fathers. Children in single-parent families face various difficulties, which lead to poor education outcomes. Sociologist Sara McLanahan, writing for "The American Prospect" states that children who grow up in single-parent families have higher school dropout rates compared to those from two-parent families 2.
Children from single-parent families have higher chances of performing poorly in academics when compared to those from two-parent families, irrespective of whether the single parent is a mother or a father. Single-parent households are more likely to have less income as compared to households with two adult earners. The study concluded that children's poverty levels are more likely to decline if single mothers would remarry.
Children who grow up in households where both parents are present are less likely to experience social problems, sociologist Paul Amato, Ph.
Family structure is one of the factors that contribute to social problems; therefore, two-parent families play a significant role in promoting the social well-being of the society. Single-parent families in America have significantly increased in the last two decades, according to the American Psychological Association.
Susan McCammon began writing in Her work has been published in various online publications. She is a teacher and educator with experience teaching first grade, special education and working with children ages 0 to 3.
McCammon holds a Ph. D in Psychology from University of South Carolina. Monitor the health of your community here.
Monitor the health of your community here
More Articles. Family Health. Written by Susan McCammon.We examined changes in the percentage of children living with single parents between and and state mathematics and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Regression models with state and year fixed effects revealed that changes in the percentage of children living with single parents were not associated with test scores. These results do not support the notion that increases in single parenthood have had serious consequences for U.
Two well-known facts provide a rationale for the current study. First, the percentage of children living with single parents increased substantially in the United States during the second half of the 20 th century. Only 9 percent of children lived with single parents in the s—a figure that increased to 28 percent in Child Trends, Given current trends, about of half of all children will spend some time living with single parents before reaching adulthood McLanahan and Percheski, Second, research shows that children in single-parent households score below children in two-parent households, on average, on measures of educational achievement Amato, ; Brown, ; McLanahan and Sandefur, The combination of these two observations suggests that the rise in single parenthood has lowered or slowed improvements in the educational achievement of children in the United States.
Some observers have claimed that the rise of single-parent families as reflected in high rates of divorce and nonmarital childbearing is the primary cause of school failure and related problems of delinquency, drug use, teenage pregnancies, poverty, and welfare dependency in American society Blankenhorn, ; Fagan, ; Pearlstein, ; Popenoe, ; Whitehead, Consider the following statements:.
Very high rates of family fragmentation in the United States are subtracting from what very large numbers of students are learning in school and holding them back in other ways.
This in turn is damaging the country economically by making us less hospitable to innovation while also making millions of Americans less competitive in an increasingly demanding worldwide marketplace. Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. It is the leading cause of declining child well-being in our society.
It is also the engine driving our most urgent social problems, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to child sexual abuse to domestic violence against women. How strong is the evidence to support these claims? To address this question, we conducted a state-level analysis of NAEP data using statistical models with state and year fixed-effects. Using multilevel modeling, Pongfound that U. Bankston and Caldas obtained comparable results with aggregate data on general academic achievement from students in Louisiana.
In a cross-national study, Pong, Dronkers, and Hampden-Thompson found that single-parent family status was negatively associated with math and science achievement scores in nine out of 11 countries. Moreover, the gap in achievement between children with one rather than two parents was smaller in countries with more supportive social policies, such as family and child allowances and parental leave.
These four studies are useful in showing that single parenthood and academic performance are associated within schools and countries. None of these studies, however, used longitudinal data to see if increases in single parenthood are accompanied by declines in the aggregate level of student performance. Several studies have shown that the rise in the percentage of children living with single parents since the s was related to an increase in child poverty in the U.
Given that single parents usually mothers are more likely than married mothers to be poor, this result is not surprising. First, children in single-parent households have a lower standard of living than do children in two-parent households. Second, parents are important sources of social capital and provide many resources to children, including emotional support, encouragement, everyday assistance, and help with homework.
Children who live with single parents, however, have less access to these social resources, in general, than do children with two parents in the household. Selection provides an alternative explanation. In addition, some parents have personal traits that predict poor academic outcomes for children, such as low cognitive ability, personality disorders, alcohol or substance use problems, and poor social and parenting skills.
These traits also increase the risk of relationship disruptions and the formation of single-parent households. Researchers have adopted a variety of strategies to assess whether the links between family structure and child outcomes are causal or spurious, including the use of fixed effects models to control for unmeasured time-invariant variables.
Results from studies using fixed effects models are mixed, however, with some suggesting that associations between family structure and child outcomes are spurious Aughinbaugh, Pierret, and Rothstein, ; Bjorklund and Sundstrom, ; Bjorklund, Ginther, and Sundstrom,and others supporting a causal interpretation Amato and Anthony, ; Cherlin, Chase-Lansdale, and McRae, ; Ermisch and Francesconi, ; Gennetian, State level data on these outcomes have been available since the early s.
This goal differs from most previous studies in this literature, which have examined links between family structure and school achievement among individual children. A disadvantage of using population-level data involves the well-known ecological fallacy, or the possibility that associations observed at the aggregate level do not hold at the individual level.Single parenthood is increasingly common in Western societies but only little is known about its long-term effects.
We therefore studied life satisfaction among individuals ages 18—66 years who spent their entire childhood with a single mother, individuals who spent part of their childhood with both parents but then experienced parental separation, and 21, individuals who grew up with both parents. Individuals who grew up with a single mother for their entire childhood and to a lesser degree also individuals who experienced parental separation showed a small but persistent decrease in life satisfaction into old age controlling childhood socio-economic status.
This decrease was partly mediated by worse adulthood living conditions related to socio-economic and educational success, physical health, social integration, and romantic relationship outcomes. No moderation by age, gender, and societal system where the childhood was spent i.
Citation: Richter D, Lemola S Growing up with a single mother and life satisfaction in adulthood: A test of mediating and moderating factors.
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licensewhich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. The scientific use file of the SOEP with anonymous microdata is made available free of charge to universities and research institutes for research and teaching purposes. Therefore, signing a data distribution contract is a precondition for working with SOEP data.
The data distribution contract can be requested with a form. For further information the SOEPhotline at either soepmail diw. Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Single parenthood is increasingly common in Western societies, with Therefore, we study differences in life-satisfaction across adulthood related to differences in childhood family structure in a large representative German panel study.
We focus on life-satisfaction in adulthood as a highly desirable characteristic which is assumed to play a crucial role for the populations' health, longevity, and citizenship [ 23 ]. There are three main pathways by which being raised by a single mother may produce a long-lasting impact on well-being in adulthood. First, children in single-mother households are more likely to suffer from less effective guardianship and a higher likelihood of family distress and conflicts e.
It is well established that two-parent families generally provide more emotional resources to children than single-parent families e. In a related vein, children, whose parents divorce, exhibit slightly lower psychological well-being and social adjustment than children from stable two-parent families e. The experience of parental divorce may cause further emotional distress to the child [ 511 ] and may eventually lead to an insecure attachment representation [ 512 ].
Prolonged family distress and insecure attachment representation may in turn complicate the development of social skills and make it more difficult to engage in satisfying intimate relationships which may eventually also hamper life-satisfaction during adulthood [ 12 ]. A second pathway of impact is related to the generally lower socio-economic status and increased risk of economic deprivation among children in single-mother households e.
Economic deprivation affects children's adjustment and well-being in multiple ways. Children from poor households are at increased risk to live in a low quality home environment and poor neighborhood conditions. They are more often exposed to harsh parental rearing practices and poor parental mental health, and they more often receive suboptimal nutrition and suffer from poor physical health [ 13 ].
Do children in two-parent families do better?
Finally, economic deprivation also increases the likelihood of these children to enter careers with poor socio-economic prospects and to show poor social integration when they reach early adulthood [ 5 ].These worries keep her up at night. With years of single motherhood behind her, she realizes that her best was not enough to provide her kids with the other parent they needed and desired.
Despite her fears, my mom is determined to provide her grandson with the one thing she knows she can give him: unconditional love and stability. Her hope is that with the support of family and the faith community, this will be enough to help him overcome an unstable childhood. The father-hunger my mother observed in her children and now in her grandson is not unique to our family.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Essence magazine editor Regina R. Robertson about her new book, He Never Came Homewhich includes 22 essays from women who lost their fathers to death, divorce, or abandonment. The common theme throughout the book is father-longing. Most of the women who shared their stories were raised by single mothers.
Despite difficult childhoods, many enjoy successful careers and families today. Even though they may have overcome the loss of their fathers, each woman describes missing her father and suffering from his absence in a variety of ways. To me, the major takeaway from the book is what actress Regina King wrote in her essay: "A lot of people think that girls need their mothers and boys need their fathers, but kids need both of their parents" emphasis is mine.
My point is not to disparage the brave and resourceful single moms and dads who are raising or have raised children. They deserve our respect and need our support. I also acknowledge that sometimes, one good parent or grandparent is better than the alternative. Not only does this view of family discount the experiences of men and women, like me, who grew up in loving but broken unmarried families, it also ignores the social science evidence on the best family structure for child well-being.
In fact, the research is clear on the overwhelming benefits of married parenthood for children, as IFS senior fellow W. Bradford Wilcox pointed out on Twitter in response to DePaulo.
One reason married parenthood is best for children is the stability it provides. Marriage also protects children against poverty.
While single-mother families are more than five times as likely to experience poverty as married-parent families, single fathers and cohabiting parents are also more likely to live in poverty. We also know that children are safer in married-parent families. They have a lower risk of being exposed to domestic violence because married women are less likely to experience physical abuse than single or cohabiting women.
Likewise, children are at the greatest risk for abuse and neglect when they live with their unmarried mother and her boyfriend. Finally, marriage is still the best means of binding a father to his children, which is important, as we are continuing to learn more about the significance of the father-child connection. Fathers do not parent like mothers, nor are they a replacement for mothers when they are not at home; they provide a unique, dynamic, and important contribution to their families and children.
Furthermore, new research has identified a biological consequence of father loss: shortened telomere length, which is linked to adverse health outcomes in adulthood. Can single parents do a great job raising kids? Of course, but we should acknowledge that children raised outside of marriage face more obstacles, including a higher risk of family instability.
We have a responsibility to continue to promote married parenthood as the premier family form for child well-being. Younger generations deserve to hear that, on average, children do best when they are raised by their own mother and father in a stable family—and this stability is more likely to occur in marriage. In my case, I am grateful that the single parent who raised me had the courage to teach me that lesson.
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IFS on Patreon.Preparing to embark upon the journey of single parenthood poses many questions and concerns. Exploring the differences between single-parent and dual-parent households can arm you with helpful information to establish a successful homelife and a positive relationship with your child, regardless of whether you are parenting independently or with a partner. These statistics show that single parents are more susceptible to financial hardship than families with two parents contributing an income.
Other statistics from the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank in Princeton, New Jersey, demonstrate that 66 percent of children from single-parent households live below the poverty level and nearly 50 percent of adults who receive welfare began the program after becoming a single parent. Only about 10 percent of children raised in a two-parent family live below the poverty level. Studies conducted by Dr. Paul Amato, Professor of Family Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University show that children who grow up with both biological parents in the same household are less likely to experience a variety of cognitive, emotional and social problems.
Dual-parent households often maintain higher standards of living, therefore providing more effective parenting skills with less stressful life circumstances. Examining potential advantages of a single-parent household is also beneficial. Leaving a relationship that exposes your child to marital conflict is a positive change because your child will no longer be entangled in parental discord at home.
The focus of homelife shifts to the parent-child relationship and daily activities can be more structured around the child. Children of single parents are likely to develop skills of independence, responsibility and self-sufficiency at an early age. Research conducted by Sara McLanahan, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison posits specific long-term outcomes for children of single-parent households.
Her studies reflect that a high percentage of single mothers never graduate from high school and that this increases the chances of their children not graduating from high school by 10 percent. Exposure to single parenthood as a child also raises the probability of next generation single parenthood by approximately percent. McLanahan's research testifies that daughters of single parents are 30 to 53 percent more likely to marry as teenagers, 75 to percent more likely to give birth while teenagers and are more likely to experience marital severance and have babies out of wedlock.
These statistics may reflect the result of single-parenting disadvantages such as less supervisory methods utilized during adolescent years and reduced ability for effective disciplining.
While much of the research conducted on single-parent and dual-parent households points to the disadvantages of single-parent families, there is extreme relevance in emphasizing the value of a secure, consistent, loving homelife to a child's upbringing.
Single parents and dual parents alike have the ability to create a homelife for their child that provides stability, emotional support and dependability. Further studies conducted by Dr. Paul Amato along with Frieda Fowler, Department of Sociology at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, demonstrate that positive parenting techniques -- regardless of family structure, income level or diversity -- directly correlate to a favorable outcome for a child's development and success later in life.
Any parenting model, whether it's single parent, biological dual parent, stepparent or cross-generational has the capacity to incorporate positive parenting methods such as understanding developmental needs, talking and listening, modeling respect, encouragement and participation.
With more than 10 years experience in early childhood education, Melinda Kedro holds a Masters degree in education, teaching certification through the Association Montessori Internationale and is a licensed childcare provider through the Colorado Department of Human Services.
More Articles. Data on Single Parent vs. Dual Parent Households. Written by Melinda Kedro. About the Author.
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