According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2008, 29 per cent of children in the United States were raised by a single parent. Authors Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur state that despite race or educational background, children brought up by only one of their biological parents fare worse than children brought up by both parents. Children raised by single parents may face significant disadvantages.
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Lower Economic Status
Many single-parent families earn less than dual-parent families. Though not all single-parent families are lower-income, many in 2002 earned less than £19,500 a year. Children raised in lower-income circumstances face challenges peers from higher-income brackets do not. Lower-income children often do not have medical or dental insurance, healthy food options or the financial means to attend college or a vocational school. They tend to move more frequently than dual-parent households and many live in neighbourhoods with few resources and positive community influence.
Lack of Guidance
Children with single parents often have a lot of idle time when there is no interaction between the child and their parent. Single parents often work at least one full-time job, and sometimes supplement their income with part-time jobs; this leaves children to fend for themselves after school, on the weekends and evenings. Many times these kids don't get help with homework or social issues and often decide how to spend their free time without parental direction.
Many children with single parents have fewer opportunities to play organised sports, attend sleep-away camp and pursue academic interests. These extra-curricular activities are rarely free and some are quite expensive, costing hundreds of dollars for each session. Single parents may struggle to transport the children to and from the activity or find time to help and encourage the children to practice.
Lack of Gender Influence
When children live with a single parent, the kids don't always have a person of the other gender in their lives. Dr. Benjamin Spock, parenting expert, claims children need role models of both genders, but they don't have to be within the family. Unless your child is outgoing or has your encouragement and assistance, he may not seek out a role model opposite your gender. While this is often not devastating, your child may grow up not learning things often associated with one gender or the other. He/she may feel like they missed out or was deprived.
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- U.S. Census Bureau: Living Arrangements of Children: 2004
- "Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps"; Sara McLanahan, et al.; 1994
- Healthline: Single-Parent Families
- Columbia University School of Social Work: Children from Low-Income families at Educational Disadvantage Prior to School Entry
- Parenting: Dr. Spock: Growing Up in a Single Parent Family