Soc Essay, Research Paper
Single Parent Families (Secondary Review) One of the most damaging myths in our society today is the idea that divorced families are broken. For too long, we ve believed that a family headed by a single parent doesn t work well, that critical elements are missing, and that children who grow up in such families are in trouble. Few would deny that the ideal family includes a mother, a father, and children sharing a single home. But without love, shared values, good communication, a willingness to work together and to learn to compromise, can be a living hell if they are not followed. A real family is classified as a nuclear family, where there are two parents and their children sharing the same household. In many cases, there is only one parent acting as the head of the family. It is either the father or the mother that care for the children alone, or in other words, a single-parent family. With the increasing divorce rate, there has also been an increase in the number of single-parent divorce rate, there has been an increase in the number of single-parent families. The highest rate of single-parent families occurred in the 1930 s where it hit 13.6 percent. It is now coming close to reaching that percentage again after being at a low of only 8.4 percent in the 1960 s. Other factors have also led to the increase of single-parent families, such as: separation, desertion, widowhood, or when a woman chooses to raise her child without marrying the father or having him be a permanent part in the child s life (Baker and Dryden 225-226). It is more common that single-parent families are led by the mother, where 9 out of 10 cases custody is granted to them (Lesile and Korman 528). In America, 20 percent of all families are led by the mother and only 2.1 percent are led by the father. Families with both parents is 76.1 percent. The rest of the children are living in foster care, with other relatives, or were adopted (Baker and Dryden 203). Each family has goals, and those goals do not change whether there is two parents heading the family or only one. Parent(s) have the same goals of raising their children right and to nurture, educate, and protect them. There is, although, a great disadvantage of living in a single-parent family. The fact that there is a lot more responsibilities with one less person to help. Often the children of the family must take on extra chores or other responsibilities around the house in order to assist the parent, which they are at work trying to make a living. It happens frequently, where the parent turns to the children for help with the responsibilities. It s true that research shows that children in single-parent families, on average, tend to do less well in many ways than children in two-parent families. However, all of us know of persons who grew up in single-parent families who turned out fine. In addition, single parent families aren t helped to become strong by focusing only on their weaknesses and problems. Instead, to become an effective family, it s better that they realize and build upon their own strengths. According to Stephen Atlas, author of the book Single Parents if single parent families are willing to work at it and get help when they need it, there are seven benefits that can come to their children and themselves.1. If there was high conflict before a divorce in a two-parent family, a change to single-parent family living can bring about a reduction in tension, hostility, discord and an increase in family solidarity and consistency. When tension is high between parents on their way to divorce, children s emotional needs are often ignored. Rules are not consistently enforced and children feel less secure. When that tension is gone, single parents can focus more on children s needs and return to greater consistency in rule enforcement.2. A single parent may have greater flexibility in planning time with children. Single-parents aren t distracted by the expectations or time demands of another adult. With fewer schedules to negotiate, there may be greater flexibility to spend time with each other.3. Single-parent families may become more interdependent, working-together approach to problem solving and daily living. Single parents depend more heavily on the voluntary cooperation of their children. This cooperation is encouraged by holding family councils, where children are involved directly in making decisions and solving problems. When children are thus involved, they are more likely to help carry out the decisions. 4. The single parenting provides many challenges that are opportunities for growth and sharing. Single parents often need to develop new skills and obtain additional education. While it isn t easy, pursuing the task of balancing a full-time job with full responsibilities for housework and parenting can help make us stronger people.5. Children have wider experiences because they may go between two different spheres of influence. Each single-parent family will have its own unique influence. This can be a broadening experience for children.6. Extended single parent community can provide support. Single parent families are not necessarily isolated or cut off from the broaden community. Nor do they necessarily lack support. 7. Young people may feel more needed and valued as contributing members of the household. In two-parent families, parents typically share the major responsibilities. In single-parent families, each child s help is needed and vital in day-to-day living. As a result, they may feel more valued.Single parent families experience more problems, special stresses and strains. There are three sources of sources that parents experience. The first is Responsibility Overload. The single parent must make decisions, plans and care for their family s needs and well-being on their own. They do not have anyone to share the responsibilities such as in a two parent family. The second is Task Overload. The single parent must do all the jobs that the parents are expected to do. Bring in the money, maintain the house, and care for all their children s needs. This can be exhausting for the single parent and often leaves them with little or no time for themselves. The third is Emotional Overload. The parent must deal with helping their children develop emotionally and they must tend to their emotional needs. With the parent needing to deal with all the tasks and responsibilities, they do not have much time for their own emotional needs and their wants go unfulfilled (Weiss 218).
Statistics have shown that it is more common for families lead by single-mother to live below the poverty line, rather than families lead family lead by single- father. It is often expected that the parent who does not have custody of the children still help by paying child support. Since the mother is rewarded custody 9 out of 10 cases, the father is expected to help out financially. In the 1980 s, the federal government gave authority to the IRS to withhold tax refunds from those parents who were not paying child support. In one year, they seized 270 714 refunds, almost totaling 170 million dollars. It has become that almost 35 percent of female-headed households live below the poverty line, which is over 13 million children live in poverty (Leslie and Korman 529). Another reason that mother-led families live in poverty is that women still do not have full equality in the work force. Women have a lower income rate than men although they perform the same job. Out of all single mothers, 81 percent between ages 16-24 live in poverty. And there is 69 percent living in poverty between the ages of 25-34. So there was a total of 60 percent of females living in poverty in 1990 (Baker and Dryden 235). Past research has indicated that children from single-parent families are more likely to experience less healthy lives, on the average, than children from intact families. For instance, children growing up with only on parent are more likely do drop out of school, bear children, and have trouble keeping jobs as young adults. Other consequences include risks to psychological development, social behavior, and sex-role identification. When income is considered, substantially fewer differences arise between the intellectual development, academic achievement, and behavior of children in single-parent and two-parent families. Lack of income has been identified as the single most important factor for the difference in children from various family forms (Amato 23-58).One of the major expenditures of single parents is child care. On average, a poor mother spends 32 percent of her total weekly income on child care. This percentage nearly doubles when more than one child needs care. For this reason, 65 percent of single parents are turning to informal, unpaid arrangements such as extended family or neighbors for a formal day care (K. Morgan 167). Although this form of child care may allow the single parent s limited income to be distributed across a greater set of needs (eg. Housing, clothing, food), quality of care may be sacrificed. Poor, single, working parents are forced to choose between quality and flexibility of child care arrangements. Many jobs offering adequate pay require long and irregular hours. For many single parents, this may mean using less well-trained or experienced child providers who are working long hours or supervising too many children (Grossman 39-41). Approximately 53 percent of single mothers are not in the work force because they are unable to find affordable, quality, child care. The majority of these mothers have no high school diploma, leaving them with few job opportunities or jobs that pay only minimum wage. Parents with two or more children often have little money left after paying taxes and child care. As a result, single parents are forced to stay home and apply for public assistance to ensure adequate housing, food, and medical coverage for their children.Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing poor single parents, many families have increasingly demonstrated themselves to be viable, well-adjusted, alternative family forms. Many are able to function well and to promote education, resourcefulness, and responsibility on their children. Successful single parent families have adopted more functioning styles including (VC Jayaratne 562-689): 1. More available personal resources, which enhances their coping effectiveness.2. Better family organization, which balances household responsibilities and decreases task overload.3. A positive family concept, which values loyalty, home-centered, consideration, communication and closeness.4. An ability to highlight positive events and place less emphasis on negative aspects of stressful events.5. Possessing less stress producing, supportive social networks.In earlier times, single parent families were mainly caused by death or desertion of a parent. However, divorces are now easier for people to obtain, and divorce and separation became the top reason for single parent families. The divorce rate has risen dramatically since the 1920 s. It has gone from a fate of 6.4 per 100000 to a rate of 307.8 per 100000 in 1990 (Baker and Dryden 234).There is also a big difference between the amount of white families that are led by the mother and the amount of black families led by the mother. About 17 percent of white families were led by the mother, but even more dramatic was the 55.9 percent of black families led by the mother, in 1984. Almost half of all black children lived in a home that was maintained by only one parent, compared to only 17 percent of white children (Lenlie and Korman 527).There are a lot of negative remarks about the mother in the work force. They are often blamed for juvenile delinquency and other problems faced by children. Many people argue that there is a lack of discipline because the mother cannot supervise the children while at work, and the children begin to wander the streets and fall into bad company. People believe that if a single parent is working then, they are neglecting their children s needs. In most cases, the working mother cannot afford day-care or baby-sitters (Olson & Banyard 50-56).Single-parenting is a very difficult job. And more mothers and fathers are becoming subjected to it. With the rise of divorce and separation, and the continuation of widowhood and desertion, single-parent families. The sad thing is that many of the single parent families live below the poverty line, and have nowhere to go for assistance. The children are raised to the best of the parent s ability, but are usually deprived of many things, including their childhood freedom, and form extra responsibilities. But they are always loved.