Single Parent Families And Their Problems Essay

, Research Paper

Only a small minority of families fit description of being a “nuclear” family today. Until the 1960’s most Americans shared a common beliefs about family life; a family should consist of a husband and a wife living together with their children. The father being the head of the family, earns the family’s income, and gives his name to his wife and children. Today, the United States exhibits a pattern of attachments and disruptions in marriages and family structure, including single-parent families and such high rates of divorce that are certainly stressful for nation’s developing children and adolescents, leading the American family and the nation’s future to a state of crisis. Families are the institution in which character is formed, and what kinds of characters are being formed, what kinds of citizens are being made to carry on our society. It is strange that today whether through their parents’ divorce or never having been married, every other American child spends part of his or her childhood in a single-parent family. The increase in the proportion of children living with just one parent has strongly affected large number of children. And a single mother (textbook) heads 78% of those single-parent families.

In this paper, through structural-functional perspective, I would like to present problems that kids have to face in mother headed household.

Most of the time s single parenthood increases women s risk of poverty because it limits her ability to work. Women position in society is still not on the same level with men position. Most of the times they can t get a job because belief that women can t do some jobs as men can is still very strong in our society. And most of single mothers need two jobs to support her kids. Facing this fact her role in society is drastically affected. On the other side, if she chouse to pay more attention to her carrier and work, she will not have enough time for kids. Women with executive or professional careers putting in 40-hours, work, travel and work and home worries don’t have enough time for family. And so children are not left with “quality time,” which means little time, from parents and “quality phone calls such as: “Honey, I won’t be home. I love you.” Though the intent is not to neglect the child, this can turn out to be neglect in effect. The worry is what does this do to the children? It of course means that children can feel insecure. It’s easy to neglect things that mean a lot to the children, and it shows when they ask: “Why didn’t you come to my school play? Oh, you had a client? Do we really need that much money?” It means that the parents are not around to be in the thousands of daily things that make up a child’s intellectual, moral, and emotional education, and so babysitters are left to do it, as well as they are able and willing. In this case kids could look for a way out on the street or with friends that are troubled.

Socializing children, restraining their impulses, encouraging their talents, all take time. And parents who don’t do this are risking that their kids will not achieve all they can, and are more likely to drop out of high school as kids who get to spend quality time with their parents. What’s more, law professor Mary Ann Glendon says: Mothers, mostly African Americans females, who don’t spend a lot of time with their kids are not teaching how members of a community live together and respect each other’s rights. When parents put personal goals ahead of family, how will kids learn the opposite?” But why mostly African Americans? Research shows that 47% of black families are headed by females, mostly living in poverty. Single mothers (textbook) head 25% of Hispanic, 14% of white and only 13% of Asian American families. So as we can see African American women are in much worse position than women of other three racial groups.

Other problem for single mothers is to control their kids, mostly boys when they reach age of 15. Feeling strong and powerful and with lack of father figure in their lives boys tend to disobey mothers orders and advisees. Reasrech shows that 45% percent of single mothers asks for help because their teenage boys acted violently toward them (Smith). But there is not much government institutions can do for single mothers. Most of the time mothers love for their kid doesn t allows these institutions to react on the right way. These institutions are very limited in their actions and resources any way so they can t really play major role in kid s life. (Hamburg)

Kids from single-mother families are usually not good students or friends to their school friends. Especially boys, on average scored lower on reading and math tests, were absent more often, were more anxious, hostile, withdrawn, and were less popular than their classmates from healthy family environments. They are very troubled and most likely to quit school midway through high school. With lack of education they can t find a good job, some of them may turn against the low and have a very negative affect on society.

Several studies have also found character distortions in children from well-educated, middle-class-divorced families. Many are withdrawn and lonely; many others, while gregarious and popular, choose their friends for the status they confer, manipulate them, and can’t keep them for long. Glendon says: “Will a man who hasn’t had a father know how to be a father?” Children from single-parent homes were 100% to 200% more likely than children from two-parent families to have emotional and behavioral problems and about 50% more likely to have learning disabilities. (Smith)

No scale can measure the wounds of divorce for children, and recent research suggests they are wounds that never heal. Psychologist Judith Wallerstein, who has intimately followed children of divorce, was shocked by the harm she found, not just right after the divorce but years later. Wallerstein had at first assumed that an unhappy marriage must be unhappy for children too. While they would feel pain at the divorce, they would also feel relief and would be just fine as time passed and their parents grew happier. Not at all. She was taken back by the intensity of the pain and fear that these kids felt when their parents split up. “The first reaction is one of pure terror,” says Wallerstein. Though most were middle-class children of executives and professionals, they worried who was going to feed and care for them. Preschool children feared that now that one parent had abandoned the other, both would abandon the child, leaving him unprotected in world.

Even though most were bright, after their parents’ divorce, many of the boys in Wallerstein’s study started having learning and behavior trouble in school; in adolescence and young adulthood a big number began to drift. By young adulthood, both boys and girls from divorced families were having equal difficulty forming intimate, loving relations. From my research, an example, in which children inquire from their father every couple of months or so, “Are you and mommy getting a divorce?” shows the extent of worry in the child. (Brokaw) Also just seeing the distress of friends whose parents are splitting apart makes the child scared of the humiliating situation. A child who lives in such circumstances finds it difficult to reckon whether or not the people that he or she counts as family can be counted upon in times of need. (Kantrowitz) In later life, adults who grew up in divorced homes are more likely than others to tell that they are unhappy and not satisfied with their lives are. Men from divorced families are 35% more likely–and women fully 60% more likely than their intact-family counterparts to get divorced (Brokaw).

There are some consequences that are well recognized in society, like children s pain, mother problems and their affect on the society. But unrecognized and unintended consequences have great effect on our society too. For example, nobody is wondering why government institutions can’t give help to single mothers, or effect that these troubled kids have on kids around them. All the fear and pain they keep inside of them is most of the time fatal for society and people that are surrounding them.

Over the past several decades, the tragedy of parental neglect of children due to divorce is reflective in our society where young adults are involved: Teenage pregnancy, criminality, youth-violence, and drug abuse, to name only a few. Furthermore, day by day they are rising to a wider portion of the society. They lack social support that should promote their education and health. They have very few models of competence. As a result of their parents’ inability to save their marriage, the result of the revolution of divorce again had deeply affected the hearts and minds of American children. The fate of these young people is not merely a tragedy for them; it affects the entire nation. A growing fraction of our potential work force consists of seriously disadvantaged people who will have little if any prospect of acquiring the skills necessary to revitalize the economy (Wallerstein). If we cannot bring ourselves to feel compassion for these young people on a personal level, we must at least recognize that economy and society will suffer along with them.


1. Brokaw, Tom. “New Realities of Changing Families,” Good Housekeeping, Oct 98, Vol. 221 Issue 4, p106.

2. Congressman William D. Ford, Annual Publication, September 1998.

3. Glendon, Mary Ann. “Family in Western Law” 1987, p 117.

4. Hamburg, David. “The New Family” Current, Jul/Aug 1996 Issue, p59.

5. Kantrowitz, Barbara. “Step by Step” Newsweek, Winter/ Spring 1992.

6. Smith, Brain. “FAMILY: Children in Crisis” Fortune, Vol. 116, Issue 3, Aug 95, p42, p6.

7. Wallerstein, Judith, “Variations in theme” newsletter, March 1998.

8. Text Book, chapters 1 & 16


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