Research Paper on Single-Parent Families and Effects on Children

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1273 Words
Date:  2022-06-19


Single-parent families have been steadily increasing in the past five decades. For instance, recent statistics show that in the United Kingdom and the United States, 30% of the families with children were headed by single parents in the year 2007 and 2008 respectively. This percentage is very high when compared to less than 10% in the early 1970s. Even though there is a continuous increase in the number of single-parent families globally, the numbers greatly vary from one country to another. For instance, single-parent families is still a rare phenomenon in Japan. Currently, the percentage of households led by single parents is the same as that of the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1970s.

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Even though single-parent families are primarily regarded as a homogenous group, different types of single-parent families exist depending on how they are formed. However, the most common kind of single-parent family is led by mothers and usually arise because of parental separation or divorce. The number has also been rising due to unplanned pregnancies before marriage as well as individuals' choice to remain single. The impact of single-parent families on children's development has been a topic of concern for researchers. Of much concern to the researchers is whether or not single-parent families have a negative impact on children's development. In the proposed study, the effect of single parenthood on the emotional development and future relationships of the children will be examined.

Literature Review

Due to the rising number of single-parent households, there has been an increase in the number of research studies examining the relationship between single parenting and children's developmental outcomes. In one of these studies, Usakli (2013) investigated whether there were differences in assertiveness, aggressiveness and submissiveness between children from single-parent households and those from two-parent families. The sample for this study comprised of 150 elementary grade children from both types of households. Children's psychological outcomes (assertiveness, aggressiveness and submissiveness) was measured using the Children Action Tendency Scale (CATS), which assesses children's response to provocative, conflict, and frustrating situations. Findings of this study revealed that children from single-parent families have a higher prevalence of loneliness; are more aggressive because of the deficit in social skills; are more submissive; and less assertive than their counterparts from two-parent families (Usakli, 2013).

Strong links have also been found between single parenting in depression in children. In one of these studies, Daryanani, Hamilton, McArthur, Steinberg, Abramson, and Alloy (2017) investigated whether children from single-mother households had higher prospective depressive symptoms and early-onset of depression than their two-parent counterparts. Findings of this study showed that children from single families were more likely to show greater depressive symptoms than those of two-parent households (Daryanani et al., 2017).

Another emotional problem associated with single parenting is self-injury. A study conducted by Buresova, Bartosova, and Cernak (2015), the relationship between parenting styles and incidences of self-harm in children was examined in a sample of 1,466 participants aged between 11 and 16 years. Findings of this study revealed that children in two-parent households had lower likelihoods of harming themselves. More specifically, approximately 60% of the participants who came from two-parent families did not have any experience of self-harm. On the other hand, children from single-parent households had higher rates of chronic self-injury.

Single parenting has also been found to affect the future sexual and intimate relationships of the children. Children who have been brought up in single mother households have been reported to be at a higher risk of being sexually active at an early age than those brought up in two-parent families (Dlamini, 2015). Moreover, children born to young single mothers are more likely to be sexually active before attaining the age of 18. Additionally, boys from single-parent families are at two-fold higher likelihood of engaging in sex before the age of 18 than girls and seven-fold more likely to engage in sex by age 15 (Dlamini, 2015). In a related study, Jeynes (2001) investigated whether children whose parents divorced in the past four years before the study developed different attitudes and behaviours towards pre-marital sex when compared to children who had been raised in single-parent households for long. Findings of the study showed that children from both the recently divorced families and those from families who had divorced for long had more permissive attitudes and behaviors towards pre-marital sex than those from two-parent families.

Children from single-parent households have also been reported to be more likely to have suicidal thoughts (Samm et al., 2009). In this study, depressive feelings and suicidal ideation were examined in adolescents of different family structures in Estonia. The sample for the study comprised of 13 to 15-year old school-going children. Findings of this study showed that children from two-parent households had lower incidences of suicidal thoughts. On the contrary, children of single parents manifested suicidal ideation more frequently. Suicidal thoughts and depressive feelings were linked to dissatisfaction with family relationships such as poor communication with parents (Samm et al., 2009).

In incidences where children show suicidal ideation following parental divorce, gender differences have been reported. According to Lee (2011), boys are more susceptible to the effects of marital breakups. Because of this, boys are at a higher risk of suicidal thoughts than girls. More specifically, in a sample that comprised of 6,647 adults from single-parent families whose parents had broken up before they attain the age of 18, men from the divorced families were at three-fold higher likelihood of having seriously considered suicide than their female counterparts. Lee (2011) further noted that after adjusting for after-effects of divorce or confounding variables, such as parental abuse and addiction, men from divorced families had two-fold more likelihood of considering suicide than women. Higher suicidal ideation in men is linked to the absence of the father figure or male role model because most of the children in single-parent households are raised by mothers.


In conclusion, single parenting has adverse impacts on the children. The adverse effects of divorce are manifested in children's emotional outcomes and their sexual relationships in adulthood. Some of the emotional effects associated with single parenting include increased loneliness, aggressiveness, and submissiveness; and reduced assertiveness. Children from single-parent families are also at a higher risk of depressive symptoms, depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation than their counterparts from intact families. Lastly, the adverse impact of single parenting is manifested through risky sexual activities of the affected children, such as early onset of sex and more permissive attitudes and behaviours towards pre-marital sex than those from two-parent families. Because of the negative effects of single parenting, efforts should be made to cushion the children from these effects.


Buresova, I., Bartosova, K., & Cernak, M. (2015). Connection between parenting styles and self-harm in adolescence. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 171, 1106-1113

Daryanani, I., Hamilton, J. L., McArthur, B. A., Steinberg, L., Abramson, L. Y., & Alloy, L. B. (2017). Cognitive Vulnerabilities to Depression for Adolescents in Single-Mother and Two-Parent Families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 46(1), 213-227.

Dlamini, S. (2015). The relationship between single mothering and adolescents' sexual behaviour in black families in urban South Africa: a retrospective analysis of the Birth to Twenty cohort (PhD). University of Witwatersrand.

Jeynes, W. (2001). The effects of recent parental divorce on their children' s sexual attitudes and behavior. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 35(1), 115-133. doi: 10.1300/j087v35n01_07

Lee, A. (2011). Suicide-divorce study: lead researcher weighs in. Retrieved from

Samm, A., Tooding, L., Sisask, M., Kolves, K., Aasvee, K., & Varnik, A. (2009). Suicidal thoughts and depressive feelings amongst Estonian schoolchildren: effect of family relationship and family structure. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 19(5), 457-468. doi: 10.1007/s00787-009-0079-7

Usakli, H. (2013). Comparison of single and two-parents children in terms of behavioral tendencies. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3(8), 256-270.

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