Single-parent families

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Single-Parent Families: Causes and Trends

Single-parent families are those having children below the age of eighteen, headed by a parent who has never married, or who is divorced or widowed, and never remarried. These types of families come about due to various reasons: death, divorce, and not ever married parents. Factually, single-parent families arose as a result of parental death: close to a quarter of children born towards the beginning of the 19th century experienced the death of one parent before they attained the age of fifteen. Presently, the factors mostly related to single-parent families in the US are the increased rates of non-marital childbearing, divorce, as well as changing cultural and social trends. Also, the accessibility of welfare benefits that allow women to set up their families, backed by the growing job opportunities for them, and the declining opportunities for men can be related to the single-parent family issue. Divorce is the leading cause of single-parenthood, with death being the least causative. It has been projected that fifty percent of children born in today's society will partly spend their childhood years with a single parent as a result of the factors mentioned above (Burgund, Pantelic, & Milanovic, 2013). Single-parent families all pass through different challenges, depending on how the family ended up being headed by one parent. There exist lots of similarities among all single-parent families based on their cause, but also, there are a lot of differences among the same families. This paper aims at exploring both the similarities and the differences of the single-parent families depending on their cause.


By all aspects, being a single-parent is not easy as there are several challenges associated with it, such as: emotional, financial, moral, and much more. According to statistics, 28% of single-parent households are headed by a mother and 11% of those are headed by a father living in poverty (Burgund, Pantelic, & Milanovic, 2013).

Financial Challenges

Financial stability is usually a very significant aspect in any family, and this is mostly realized through the efforts of both parents. However, in single-parent households, it becomes hard to sustain the family with only one income. Majority of single parents are forced to take an extra job so as to manage to support the household. With the financial strains come the time-consuming tensions. Since they need to work extra hours, the single parents have little time to spend with the children. As a result, both the children and the parents will be affected because of lack of quality time spent together. The single parents also have challenges that cannot be supported by their employers because they do not understand their condition, which in turn worsens the situation (Anderson, & Sabatelli, 2011). It is essential for children to spend quality time with their parents since lack of it will pose particular psychological problems. Children from single-mother households are more probable to have health-related complications due to the deterioration of their living standards, plus lack of health cover. In their later lives, as the children grow up, they tend to marry prematurely, bear children, and divorce. The girls have a higher risk of becoming single parents from non-marital pregnancies or divorce.

Emotional Stress

Emotional stress is another element that is common among all the single-parent families. The single parents who chose to remain single rather than get married may be immune to the emotional element of missing the other parent; nonetheless, the children will have the emotions of missing the other parent since they will always fantasize about how things would be different with the other parent around. The absence of both parents will affect the children differently because some will not understand what they are missing hence will not be stressed emotionally about having only a single parent. The children who do not realize what they are missing will be unmindful of the presence of only one parent. However, the financial dispossession of single-parent family life, combined with other sources of stress and pressure, is the primary source of the challenges faced by both the children and parents (Richter & Lemola, 2017).

The children and parents of single-parent families resulting from death or divorce will be affected emotionally equally. The children will have the picture of having both parents around and will have challenges adjusting to living with one parent. On the other hand, the single parents will have to cope with the problem of not having the other partner around for support and company (Burgund, Pantelic, & Milanovic, 2013). These emotive constraints may create other problems between the children and the single parents such as communication breakdown. These problems may cause developmental issues for the children both at school and home. In mother-headed single families, children are more inclined to experience psychological and financial shortcomings; higher rate of absenteeism at school, lower education levels, and higher rates of dropout; and more nefarious activity. More often, the boy child is more negatively impacted than the girls.

Challenges for Divorced Single Parents

Divorced single parents are often usually perceived as having poor parenting skills, as well as poor family values (Anderson, & Sabatelli, 2011). The divorcees should work out how their new financial status will be adjusted, and learn how to create time for the children. Most of the time, this may involve selling the family house and relocating to a more affordable place. The children will be affected since they will interpret this as a loss of friends and the only family they ever knew (Burgund, Pantelic, & Milanovic, 2013). These emotional constraints will affect all the family members and make the process of transition more complex for all of them. The single parents who are divorcees will be forced to create or assume new parenting roles to the children without involving the other parent. In the course of the transition process, some children may try to use the situation to their advantage by blackmailing the parents to agree on what they had already refused.

Also, more problems could arise between the parents as one may agree or disagree on things that can be allowed in their homes. The divorcee single parents usually have the help or assistance of the other parent in bringing up the children, though their time will be divided. The parents may also get financial support from the other parent by way of child support or alimony. Nevertheless, the amount of money awarded may not be comparable to what they used to get as a one family unit.

Challenges for Unmarried Single Parents and Widowed Single Parents

The single parents who never got married may have or may not have the support of the other parent in raising the children. In cases where the other parent is present, they may have to share their time with the kids. In contrast with the divorced, the unmarried single parents would not get any child support or alimony. The widowed single parents will not have the other parent to assist in raising the children, and do get any child support or alimony. Nevertheless, in some cases, they may get some life support or death benefits, but still, they will have to bring up the children alone and support them emotionally. The divorced and widowed single parents may experience spells of low-esteem, loneliness, and depression (Burgund, Pantelic, & Milanovic, 2013). In the long run, this may impair their capacity to care for the children, which may also worsen the emotions of the children.

More often, the single parents may be forced to solicit support and help from other people, but without letting the outside source replace them (Anderson, & Sabatelli, 2011). Getting help from other people will usually assist the single-parent families to realize their needs, be it basic or secondary. This kind of aid may assist the children with their emotions; give them comfort, and a feeling of stability. But still, most single parents tend not to rely much on the external help. Partly because they realize that this will expose them more vulnerable since when the external support stops, they will go back to the same condition they were before. Learning to move on and manage without external help appears to be a much better option when they consider the long-term plans and results. Another arising form of single parenthood is whereby single women choose to adopt or bear children alone. Technological advancement enabling insemination without intercourse contributes to this type of single-parenthood. Although the children from this kind of family may not experience economic challenges, they are likely to have developmental and behavioral issues related to the absence of one parent (Richter, & Lemola, 2017).


Single-parent families can be described as those having children below the age of eighteen headed by a parent who has never married, or who is divorced or widowed, and never remarried. Single-parent families come about due to various reasons, death, divorce, and not ever married parents. Several differences exist between these families depending on their cause. Nevertheless, some of these differences may affect the process of transition according to each type. Apart from the differences, there exist lots of comparisons among the kinds of each Single-parent family. Each single-parent family has a lot of constraints and challenges that ordinary families do not experience on a normal basis. However, the children from the single-parent families may present or may not present with more emotional concerns than the other children from families with both parents. The key challenges faced by single-parent families include financial, moral, and emotional challenges, but most importantly there is the issue of time whereby the children and the parents do not have much time together. Another arising form of single parenthood is whereby single women choose to adopt or bear children alone. Technological advancement enabling insemination without intercourse contributes to this type of single-parent family. Although the children from this kind of family may not experience economic challenges, they are likely to have developmental and behavioral issues related to the absence of one parent.


Anderson, S. A., & Sabatelli, R. M. (2003). Family interaction: A multigenerational development perspective (5th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

Burgund, A., Pantelic, M., & Milanovic, M. (2013). SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES--SOCIAL STATUS, NEEDS AND CHALLENGES. Human: Journal for Interdisciplinary Studies, 3(1).

Richter, D., & Lemola, S. (2017). Growing up with a single mother and life satisfaction in adulthood: A test of mediating and moderating factors. PloS one, 12(6), e0179639.

June 09, 2022
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