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Implications of Single Parent Families

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3884 words Published: 7th Jul 2017

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The issue of single parenthood has been of much discussion if many societies in the recent past mainly to the increment of these families and the perceived inability of the failure of societies to stop this (Booth, Crouter 2002). In many societies, the nature of life with relations to jobs, interaction, life expectations and extended families may give rise to or create an environment that is deemed to be conducive for the existence single parents (Antecol, Bedard 2005, Ray 2010).

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In the view of this essay, single parent families pose different implications to different societies in the world which can again be defined by income levels, religious affiliations, geographical disposition and even technological development levels (Cheal 2003), this is to say that, there are certain implications that may be prevalently negative due in technologically advanced societies and not necessarily with the same intensity in economically deprived societies or deeply religious societies.

The view held by this essay is that, generally, single parent families pose various negative implications to the societies as a whole.

This essay will therefore describe what single parent families are, also, the essay will briefly discuss the rise of single parent families and provide an elaborate evaluation about the implications and lastly provide an evaluation about what could be done to deal with these implications.

Single parent families

Single parent families may be described as those families that have only one member of the parents being represented and not both the parent and conventionally, this may imply that either the father or the mother is absent and the children are brought up by the other parent (Cavanaugh, Fields 2006). According to Deleire, Kalil (2010), a single parent family is a family that appears normal in representation but with the absence of a resident member of the parents being either the mother or the father.

It is however important to develop an understanding about what parentage means, as this will facilitate the creation of a more holistic view of the concept. This is because, while (Furlong, Cartmel 2007), viewed parents as both the man and the woman who live together and hence both take an active part in raising the children and keeping the family together, (Hantrais, Flipov, Billari 2006), notes that that is a view that is conventionally confined to ‘straight’ families that leaves the ‘homosexual’ parents out of its definition and is hence limited. According to Campbell et al (2008), the rise of homosexuality, especially in developed economies is increasingly ruling out the conventional definition that includes man and woman.

Another view that has been taken by (Hayslip, Kaminski 2008), notes that by stating that the man and woman must be living together, the subjective problem is that these must be under one roof for most of their day or week, which is increasingly becoming impossible when the need to provide for the family increasingly leading to parents living apart as they seem to fend for their families. Could this arrangement be termed as single parentage?

Probably the definition given by (Paterson 2001), is more acceptable as it brings about the psychological and physical aspect of this family composition, because, this definition views single parents as those who are physically and emotionally detached from each other and hence one or each of the parents look after all or some of the children, as the outcome of separation for the other partner.

The causes

The view held by Bradshaw (2003), and Deleire, Kalil (2010), is that it is not possible to understand the implications of single parent families without identifying the cause of existence of such families. The following are the causes of the rise in single parent families;

First, death of the is the primary cause of these families since death of the parent deprives the family of one of the parents. Therefore in societies where terminal illnesses are prevalent or where death rates are higher, the probability of having many single parents and hence such families is also very high (Edwards 2009). But at this point it is important to note that the existence of single parent families as a result of death may only be temporary if the widow or widower remarries after a period of ‘mourning’, which may extend to a few years, therefore, single parentage only arises when there is no re-marriage. In many a society, depending on the ages of the widow (er), re-marriage may be an option, also, and this is to imply that if the marriage takes place when the children are already old and have left the house, the case of single parentage may not arise since in the view of Egeland, Carlson, Sroufe (2009), single parentage exist where children are still in the care of the parents.

Secondly, according to Hayslip, Kaminski (2008), divorce, which may be caused by a multitude of reasons, is another case for single parentage. This is because, divorce leads to estrangement of the partners and this leaves one of the partners with the duty of taking care of the children. The increased rise in divorce cases, which is caused by disagreements or as is in the recent past, mutual agreements, leads to the aforesaid single parentage. Divorce cases are on the increase in all societies both the Western and Orient, the rich and poor across the globe (Hill, Hill 2003).

Third, economic reasons (Heckman 2008, Melchior et al. 2009) which come about by the need to stay apart, sometimes for weeks or months or even years hence leading one of the partners to have sole responsibility for upbringing, but this may be disputed since the other partner, mainly the man, still parents the children indirectly by sending money and issuing instructions (Hutchings et al 2007). But as noted earlier, single parentage has much to do with psychological imbalance than just the presence of one of the partners and the continued absence of one of the parents may mean that the each of the parents and even the children experience the psychological imbalance that exists (Ray 2010).

Fourth, decayed moral fabric of many societies have lead to early or unwanted pregnancies which in turn leads to single mothers having to take full responsibilities of their children as the supposed fathers are either not known or are simple not ready to take responsibilities for parentage (Rimm, Rimm 2008). In this case, according to (Cheal 2003) societal vices like wartime rape cases are also immoral and when they lead to pregnancies, then single parentage arises.

Fifth, religious beliefs, according to (Furlong, Cartmel 2007), some religious beliefs may lead to women having to give birth as the options of abortion is not considered and as such when this happens then they may be left to deal with child raising on their own. According to (Rimm, Rimm 2008), this belief is predominant in the Catholic denomination of the Christian faith where, even family planning methods are not entertained.

Sixth, adoption cases are also on the rise and these also causing the non-biological existence of single parentage when the children are adopted by one person (Bradshaw 2003). Since most laws on adoption do not curtail this practice to the existence of both the parents (Cavanaugh, Fields 2006) and (Ray 2010), it is increasingly becoming easy to adopt by individual.

Seventh, the sense of independence that is now sought after by many women who may not wish to have their own children but not under the ‘control’ of anyone else has also contributed to the rise of such families (Egeland, Carlson, Sroufe (2009) and (Furlong, Cartmel 2007). The view held by this essay is that, for this to happen, the mother must be assured of their ability to take care of their children especially to provide for their material needs (Hayslip, Kaminski 2008). This is therefore a major cause for the rise in relatively developed economies where jobs can be created then in developing economies.

The factors given above denote that there are many reason causing rise of single parent families and most of which are beyond the control of the parent or even the state, but, the state can, to some extent have effective measures of dealing with this situation although this may take time, for instance change the tax benefit system for single families may not be an easy process as it is political, but (Cheal 2003), notes that this can only go to a certain extent but will not hold families which are in marital problems together.

The Implications

As seen in the discussion above, there are various cause of single parentage and these hence mean that the implications are also many as given below;

First, single parent families deprive the children of the benefits of having the other parent (McBride 2006). This according to Hall and Hall (2007), Osberg (2003), may lead to serious behavioural problems cased by the sense of deficiency, which the child realises through his/her peers. For instance, according to the research by (McLanahan 2000), lack of father figure may often lead to behavioural problems by the children, which may make them to start having problems with the law at a very early age. However, (Peele 2004), made an attempt to state that behavioural problems might be caused by any factor and not necessarily lack of the ‘father’ figure, but this view has been contested by (Pounds 2007), who noted that the ‘father’ figure may be found in the mother and hence, the view held here is that the child grows to note a difference between him/her with other children and it is this psychological knowledge of abnormality that makes the child to have tendencies of negative reaction and begin to be ‘on the wrong side of the law’.

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Secondly, as a result of having problems with the law, the government may be forced to spend a lot of money on rehabilitation and this may hence mean that in serious case scenario, the government will have to allocate more money to the social welfare department and activities at the expense of other development allocations (Tanner 2003). According to (McLanahan 2000) and (Cheal 2003), this is a major problem since the allocations to this department are not productive either in the short or the long term. According to Yarber, Sharp (2010), when children are taken into custody for correction, they may not necessarily respond positively to this custodial correction and on the contrary, they may become rebellion and the purpose will have been defeated. However, (Deleire, Kalil 2010), noted that this is a problem with less scientific ways of rehabilitation that leave children to feel like criminals than potentially productive members of the society.

Thirdly, single parentage may result in unnecessary allocations of benefits to the single parents in a welfare state (Telegraph 2009, BBC News 2007 and Thisismoney 2009). This is a terrible outcome on many fronts. In the view of this essay, tax benefits on single parents bring about single families that encourage child vices as held in the first and second part above, and at the same time takes away money from the exchequer in an unproductive ways leading to serious deficit problems which the UK is facing currently (BBC News 2007). This is seen as the social problems that extend to political problems in the society and this to many a ‘normal’ families becomes an unfortunate situation since it appears that single parentage is rewarded and normal parentage is punished ((Booth, Crouter 2002). According to (Rimm, Rimm 2008), the reason the benefits which lead to budgetary imbalances are unfair when given to most of the single parents is that the system will most certainly stand to be abused by those who know how to do so. Also it is generally impossible for the governments to know for certainty who of the single parents are in their situations in a genuine way and lastly, there will be no way of having in place a more effective control measures to compromise the parents or even to ensure that the society is trained on the importance of a normal family when there is seemingly more advantages of staying single than in a family (Wang, Benard 2004 ).

Fourth, single parent families exposes the parent or the children or both to abuses especially if the parent is the mother and not the father (Deleire, Kalil 2010), this is the view that is also held by (Yarber, Sharp 2010, Rimm, Rimm 2008), who stated that when the children are left with the mother alone, chance are that the society will note the vulnerability of this entire family and those who wish to exploit them will do so in various ways (Furlong, Cartmel 2007) for instance a supposedly caring ‘boyfriend’ or partner may abuse the children due to lack of real parentage attachment to them. The mothers may also be under severe abuse as a result of this and while this is not to suggest that the abuse is often physical, but they may be taken advantage of either due to their money or property after which they will be left in a sorry state (McLanahan 2000). According to (Deleire, Kalil 2010), the probability of suffering by single mothers is higher than the women in a normal relationship, since these single mothers and even their children are viewed to have no where to go to (Wu 2009). However, Deleire, Kalil (2010), noted that such abuses, as much as they exist in many a society, they are more prevalent in the developing than developed societies, because, in developed societies certain infrastructure exist that may discourage such instances for instance, quick police responses and CCTVs which when coupled with increased profiling, may deter violent abuses, this is not the case in the developing economies.

Fifth, according to McLanahan (2000) and Swick, Williams (2010) single parent families are bound to have increased stress than a normal family due to the lack of shared responsibilities. This is a crucial problem in that, in single parent families, the lone father or mother bears all the burden of parentage, including fending for the family and looking after the children interest (Wu 2009). According to Swick, Williams (2010), this causes the parent to provide less than sufficient attention to the children and to snap at minor provocation which may affect the child’s psychology due to abuses, beatings and even serious sufferings that might be inflicted on to the children who may suffer in silence (Wang, Benard 2004). While this view has also been supported by (Furlong, Cartmel 2007) and (Deleire, Kalil 2010) who noted that such parents cause problems to themselves and to their children, (Cavanaugh, Fields 2006) and (Jackson, Preston, Franke, 2010), have not supported it and they state that stress can exist more in a normal family than in a single parent family and it all depends on what the parent is doing and not the state of the parent. This is because; most single parents are resilient and can bear stress in a far better way than normal parents.

Sixth as their parents are stressed, children may hence be stressed too which may affect their ability to perform well in school. This is because; children may not be able to handle the psychological pressures that come with stress, which may be translated to mean deprivation and withdrawal (Wang, Benard 2004), these children are more likely to experience serious dysfactionalities and absent-mindedness which are also psychological in nature and hence loss concentration in the classroom (Anderson A., et al 2008), however, (Wu 2009), seriously disputes this notion by stating that children in abusive but normal families are the ones who may show such tendencies as they live in the ‘terror’ of abusive parents. This seem to be a more credible point of view as the children in such families are left with little option if they view, for instance, their mother to be helpless and their fathers to be ‘monsters’ (Cavanaugh, Fields 2006), this may not exist in single parent families. According to (Rimm, Rimm 2008), the main implication in this case is that the children who may wish to compare themselves to their mates, may find themselves ‘lacking’ especially if they also come across teachers who talk about the parent that is not in the child’s life (Jackson, Preston, Franke, 2010). According to the research conducted by (Zastrow, Karen 2009), in Denmark, on an average, the children from single parent backgrounds were found to be performing poorly in the classroom than those in the normal families, however, this research produced an interesting finding by stating that, on average, the performance was worst soon after the parents have split and as the child ‘recovers’ from the shock, they, mentally accept the reality if it is explained clearly to them and their performance may improve (Wang, Benard 2004). (McLanahan 2000), took a very different point of view by stating that child’s performance has nothing to do with their family set-ups but everything to do with the schools that they are studying in, because, good schools which are sought after produced an average of better results with higher grades for every child (Melchior et al. 2009) as opposed to the average schools.

Seventh, according to (Furlong, Cartmel 2007), single parents families may cause a spiral effect on the future generations by having children who develop greater tendencies to being single parents themselves as they grow to learn to be the ‘mother and father’ of their families at the same time. This, according to (Cavanaugh, Fields 2006), is a positive implication in creating a resilient society, but, according to Yarber, Sharp (2010), the resilience is to the extent of the child being able to handle pressure in the future at work but not positive in encouraging a normal family existence (Melchior et al. 2009 ). According to (Rimm, Rimm 2008, Yarber, Sharp 2010), the ability to act as a mother and father at the same time has nothing whatsoever to do with positive societal framework and resilience does not replace the discipline and order that can exist with the existence of both the parents, therefore, this notion of resilience is self defeating.

Eighth, according to the research conducted by (Zastrow, Karen 2009) and (McLanahan 2000), single parent families face serious economic deprivation, poverty and even exposure to vices like prostitution, theft and greater likelihood of suicide. The study here was related to material problems that the single parents face and it was found that when there is shared responsibilities, the family may sustain unlike if such is not present (Rimm, Rimm 2008). This is because, in a single parent family, the source of income may be one especially in cases where one partner died or where there was unwanted pregnancy, this may lead to deprivation where children lack what they need and when this prevails, and stress comes in, the tendency to resort to extreme measures (Melchior et al. 2009). Prostitution is one of the common ways of fighting poverty when other measures seem to have failed (Jackson, Preston, Franke, 2010), also, in worse cases, suicides may be the way out of misery by both the parent and the child(ren), and these are practices that do not only wreck the single parent family but also the normal families (Jackson, Choi, Bentler 2009).

Discussion and Conclusion

This essay has managed to highlight various issues that relate to single parenthood as they affect various societies. Single parenthood is a major problem that confronts all societies alike. It is the view of this essay that the implications can only be dealt with if the causes are identified. As seen in this essay, the main causes of this situation range from family disagreements to natural causes to political factors of the welfare state, these are far reaching and hence with much more greater implications and it may not be possible to adopt a single method of tackling these as the approach has to be multi faceted.

The best way to tackle the problem of single parenthood is to ensure that the social and moral fabric is addressed (Rimm, Rimm 2008, Yarber, Sharp 2010), and the view of this discussion is that for this to be done, the schools must be encouraged to adopt curricula that educates and instils on the children the importance of family without seeking to find out how their families are composed, this will cause sanity to the moral thinking of the society and as the generation ages, the importance of family will be glorified (Melchior et al. 2009). Also, religious based organisations must be consulted and asked to help by having their teachings geared towards family cohesion and not family breakages, this however requires the society to be more responsive to religious calls which may not be a major issue sin many societies.

Also, the rules that make divorce easy and benefiting especially to the other partner who goes to share half the wealth must be re-discussed and changes adopted (Yarber, Sharp 2010), in the UK, the mother is generally given the duty to look after the children while in the USA (Rimm, Rimm 2008), this duty is shared with the father also taking part, this is in the case of divorces, the shared responsibility may reduce the vices that children may show since they still enjoy the company and teachings of the parents. However, in the cases of death, it is obvious that there cannot be any arrangement of custodial rights for the other party as they are not there, but this calls for strengthening the community spirit, so that the whole society can be charged with the duty of taking care of the children (Booth, Crouter 2002, Yarber, Sharp 2010), of course schools can only play a limited role and the extended family needs to take an active role, yet, it must be realised that this cannot be forced either, however, the government can to some extent facilitate this by reducing the benefits given to the single parents who choose to do so simply to benefit from the tax benefits, this will lead to more reliance on family and lastly, foster caring should be vetted and allowed for normal families alone as a way of placing the child in a normal family and avoiding future problems (Melchior et al. 2009).

Lastly, as seen from this discussion, there are more negative implications of single parent families than are positive ones, which denote that this is a societal problem that needs to be dealt with and it calls for society-wide participation to deal with it. While single parents must be cared for, care must be taken to ensure that this care is not misinterpreted and abused by others who may have other options.


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