Single Parental System and the Psychological Impact on Children

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The number of single parents in the United States continues to grow but the amount of research about the effects single parenting has on children is limited. There are many aspects of single parenting that are considered stressors for children that could affect them in years to come. While you may not see the effects of single parenting in early childhood you can see it later in life. While I plan to investigate the effects, single parenting has on the development in early childhood and school. As well as we adolescence and how it could affect the way children develop. I also plan to see what effects could carry into adult hood and relationships.

First, I want to point out that the percentage of children living with single parents increased substantially in the United States during the second half of the 20th century. Only 9 percent of children lived with single parents in the 1960s. Amato, P. R., Patterson, S., & Beattie, B. (2015). Many people believe that children that live in single parent homes struggle more educationally. There are many things that could attribute to the struggle of these children in school. Stressors at home often carry over with children to school, affecting their learning and behavior.

Using multilevel modeling, Pong (1997, 1998) found that U.S. students performed more poorly on math and reading achievement tests in schools with high proportions of children from single-parent families. Bankston and Caldas (1998) obtained comparable results with aggregate data on general academic achievement from students in Louisiana. In a cross-national study, Pong, Dronkers, and Hampden-Thompson (2003) found that single-parent family status

was negatively associated with math and science achievement scores in nine out of 11 countries. Amato, P. R., Patterson, S., & Beattie, B. (2015).

Single parent families often struggle more financially simply since there is only one source of income. Income of parents is often a good predictor of how well a child will or will not do in school. With only one income there is a good chance that the parents will have less time to spend with the child doing homework or studying. Growing up in a single parent home it often occurred that my mother was too busy to help with homework. My grades suffered because of the neglected homework. The cumulative amount of household instability or turbulence in children's lives is associated with a variety of problematic outcomes, including school performance and educational attainment. Amato, P. R., Patterson, S., & Beattie, B. (2015).

With poverty which single parent homes often fall under comes additional issues. Substance abuse, alcohol addiction, and poor cognitive ability often come hand and hand with poverty. When a child is born into poverty there is a high chance that child will never leave poverty. As a child is born to a single parent or parents' divorce the cycle will continue, which explains why the number of single parent homes continues to grow.

As children grow the consequences grow as well. Children who grew up in single parent homes are are twice as likely to drop out of high school, 2.5 times as likely to become teen mothers, and 1.4 times as likely to be idle -- out of school and out of work -- as children who grow up with both parents. Sara Mclanahan (1994) Some children also grow up with other disadvantages against them. It is shown that children who grew up with single parents and are Hispanic have a higher chance of school failure than there was of White Americans and African Americans.

Family disruption raises the risk of dropping out 150 percent for the average white child, 100 percent for the average Hispanic child, and 76 percent for the average black child. Sara Mclanahan (1994)

Looking at the behavior aspect of children is important when discussing the development of single parent families. In a comparison of black and white children, Deater-Deckard et al. (1996) found that physical discipline practices in the first 5 years of life were associated with higher levels of teacher-reported behavior problems for white children in kindergarten through third grade, but they found no significant association between physical discipline and subsequent teacher-reported behaviors for black children. Jackson, A. P., Preston, K. S., & Franke, T. M. (2010). The way children are disciplined has a huge effect in the way they behave in childhood and in adulthood. From my own experience I have found that being raised by a single mother who did not use physical discipline, I myself do not use physical discipline. I look down on the act of physical discipline simply because I do not see the need for it. Children pick up on the things their parents do in everyday life and if they seem hitting as a normal thing that could carry over into school and even adult hood.

Psychological effects of single parenting could differ depending on when the parents became single parents. Children who witness their parents fight constantly or get a divorce, they are more likely to have emotional issues than those kids who did not experience this. These children often turn to other sources to relive the stress of their home life. Alcohol, drugs and crime could become a normal part of their life to take their mind off the struggles at home. While children who are born into single families may see this as normal and could cope with the fact of only having one parent. My mother and father got a divorce when I was young, but that often-put stress on me because I felt like my family was not normal compared to everyone else.

With separated parents there is the struggle of splitting time between the two parents. This could be a stressor for children because they will not have a set schedule. As well as splitting time on holidays could cause stress for children. Children tend to do better when they know what their schedule is, and the same thing happens every day. Not having a schedule could cause poor school work, poor social skills, and possibility detachment from their parents. This may make younger children feel insignificant to their parents or that they do not want them around. School work may also struggle in the day to day moving they could forget homework somewhere or lose it.

Children who were raised by a single parent is more likely to drop out of college than one who was raised by two parents. This shows that the effects of single parenting does not only affect children, but also it could carry into young adulthood. If children did not have the right type of relationship with their parent when they are young it is proven that they can continue to struggle into adulthood. Young adults could also turn to alcohol or drugs to fill the void that they may have because of the missing parent. These young adults could struggle with the relationships they form or try to form. These relationships could struggle because they may not have seen how a household functions with two parents. Being from a single mother home, I often thought I would never find a person to spend my life with. I also did not think that they were families were happy and functioned with two parents.

Coming from a single parent home often cause the child to also suffer from coming from a financially unstable home. It is said that children who suffer from financially instability also suffer more than those children who come from a more financially stable home. Drugs, alcohol, and other aspects can be thrown into the mix with poor families. Not only could the children have substance abuse issues the parents are more likely to have some type of addiction. The children who come from poor single parent homes have just about everything going against them. The chances of going to college is much lower for this group of children.

While many things point to a negative outcome for children raised by single parents, these children are not completely doomed. If they have a strong social support, which means there are neighbors or friends that often help the parent these children have a good chance of being successful. It is also said that grandparents are a positive input to a negative situation. With my own upbringing, my mother had many people who lived close to us that were willing to help. My grandparents took on the part of raising me and being my backbone, which I think is what made it possible for my positive outcome from a negative situation. Many single parents may turn to these people to be their support as well. People always say, It takes a village to raise a child, and in this case they are very right.

Many people view being raised by a single parent as a negative, not everything is the way it seems. There are chances for positives to happen, and some overcome the challenges stronger than before. There is research that shows how single parent has developmental effects on young children, adolescent children, and how it can even carry over to adulthood. None the less, children overcome obstacles and become great people.


Amato, P. R., Patterson, S., & Beattie, B. (2015). Single-parent households and children's educational achievement: A state-level analysis. Social science research, 53, 191-202.

The Consequences of Single Motherhood. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Jackson, A. P., Preston, K. S., & Franke, T. M. (2010). Single Parenting and Child Behavior Problems in Kindergarten. Race and social problems, 2(1), 50-58.

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Single Parental System and the Psychological Impact on Children. (2019, Jun 26). Retrieved July 13, 2024 , from

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