Pitfalls of single parenting and how to avoid them

In nuclear families, each parent plays different roles and children get maximum care when both the parents are present. The father will be a role model for leadership and discipline; while a mother takes care of the day to day needs and builds a good moral character in children.

Over the past 50 years, the family structure is in transition. The family of two parents is changing to a single parent structure. Single parenting can be a result of divorce/ death of one spouse/ abandonment. The entire responsibility of taking care of the child/children balancing both the job and the household activities fall on one parent. A single parent has to aggregate resources and provide time and care to child/children, which can be stressful to both.

Impact of single parenting on children

Children from single parent’s home irrespective of the cause, are known to be affected in various ways such as:

  • Low self-esteem (negative feelings about oneself): Children may ‘interpret’ that they may be the cause for the separation and start questioning about their worth.
  • Low psychological well-being (depression, distress symptoms): Decreased attention from a working single parent or comparison with children who have both the parents can make the child feel depressed. The distress exhibited by the single parent about the divorce, separation, or death of his/her partner can increase the distress in the child as well.
  • Poor academic success (low school grades): Catering to all the needs as well as supervise the academic performance of a child is difficult to be handled by a single parent. Lack of attention by a single parent can make the child take his/her studies lightly leading to poor performance.
  • Aggressive behaviour: It may be due to hatred behaviour towards the single parents presuming that they are the cause for the single parent status.
  • Poor peer relations (less number of close friends): Peers may reject or look down upon children with a single parent. This behaviour of the friends can make the children withdraw themselves from their peers and therefore have fewer friends.
  • Economic hardships: Children of single parents are economically disadvantaged as one source of income may not be able to address all the needs of a child such as books, uniform, dress, computer, private sessions, outings, birthday celebrations, parties, etc.
  • Weak emotional bonds with single parents: The quality of care is usually compromised since a single parent is not always available to meet the emotional demands of children. A single parent also needs his/her space to recoup with several domestic issues of life. Meantime, the emotional bond between the child and parent is hampered.
  • Substance abuse: Study has shown that children of single parents are at a slightly increased risk for drug and alcohol use. This habit may be used as a stress coping tool or due to peer pressure or due to filling the vacuum of a missing parent.

A single-parent family may not be able to cater to all the needs of the growing children and may be stressful both for the parent and for the child. However, if that single parent can display patience and positive behaviour, it can bring in the positive effects on the child’s behaviour, which can still be a healthy environment for the child to grow up!

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  • Amadu Musah Abudu and Moses Naim Fuseini. Influence of single parenting on pupils. International Journal of Education Learning and Development Vol.1, No.2, pp.85-94, December 2013.
  • Single parenting and today’s family. American psychological association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/single-parent.aspx. Accessed on May 25,2016.
  • The Psychological Impact of Single Parenting. Single Parent center. http://www.singleparentcenter.net/single-parenting-psychological-impact/. Accessed on May 25,2016.

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