This paper is devoted to the issue of singe parenting as one of the important family problems. A single parent is a parent who lives with one or more children without the second parent. Usually the definition of single parenting depends upon the local laws, but there are other cases as well, for example if a parent is left alone after the divorce, after another parent just leaves the family or the child, if the second parent is put to the jail or is dead. It is not necessary that the single parent is natural mother or father of the child, some people choose to adopt a child or become a parent through artificial insemination or just take care of a child, who was left by his natural parents. The household of a single parent differs a lot from a usual household. Certainly all situations are unique, some people choose the path of single parenting consciously, and some are made to bring the child up alone. There are a lot of negative moments about single parenting, there are some positive as well. For example, if a person takes care of a child alone, he has always the freedom to choose and to make all the decisions on his own. On the other hand making decisions can be really hard sometimes and really often people feel the need for somebody’s support and a piece of advice. Usually single parents do not have enough time to do all the house work and thus involve children from the early age in doing chores. Single parents have to discuss most of house matters that should be actually solved with another parent, with their children like with adults. In case the other parent is alive and has the wish to see the kid, they all have to get used to taking the children from one home to another.
At any rate single parenting is rather hard for the parent, as a child needs attention and care all the time and parents need breaks for rest.
We can not consider single-parent households a disaster as in comparison to the family where there is a constant conflict between parents, it is better for the child to have only one parent, but live in the atmosphere of friendship and care. Single parents are more flexible concerning the time for children, as there are not demands from the side of another parent. Children feel more needed and more valued when they are involved into the process or problems solving and decisions making. Single – parent families could be a great support for each other and the source of new relationships as well.
There is a number of potential problems that single parents might face. If their relations with former husband or wife are still not ok, their conflicts might influence children negatively. Children are luckily to have problems at school and sometimes even in relations with their peers. Children have to get used to new relations of their parents and to new people that become the part of their lives.
Thus, single parenting is a rather common situation and with its positive and negative moments should be accepted as a social phenomenon.
The history of single families as well as family as a social block is rather long. It is logical to start from white middle class families that were considered a basis of larger social institutions. The colonial families had the responsibility not only for their families but for the whole colony as well. Parents had concrete defined roles in their work, including children care. Farther was to play the role of a good model of behavior. He had to take care of education of his children and to arrange marriages of them as women were not considered to be able to do it correctly. So, the single parent families could not exist so successfully at those times, as it was almost impossible for one parent to take the role of both parents. Unusual laws existed at those times, for example the so-called “stubborn child” law allowed the death penalty for children who were not obedient to their parents.
In the 19th century the urban family was changed. The family became more separated from the whole community. As soon as the Industrial revolution happened the fathers had to leave their homes, thus their wives stayed at home and had to become the main caregivers to children. The result was that the influence of fathers was not so strong any more and the influence of mothers became on the contrary stronger. As time passed fathers were more and more distanced from their homes and their role of child care takers was substituted by the role of providers. As fathers had the chance to enter the real world, their status was higher and their orders were to be followed. At this time the ideals of “breadwinner” and “model” mother were developed. This ideal also contributed to separation of the father from family life and paying more attention to his work and social position.
Nowadays, most researches state that these both models were not quite correct and are not correct now. During the years 1860-1920 the black immigrant families could not afford only one earner for the family and these ideals were appropriate only for white middle class families. By the year 1893 more and more women were taking up jobs and the number of divorces increased. “In 1950 – about 22% families had both working parents, in 1980 – the number increased to 42 %” (Hilton, J., Desrochers, S.,Devall, E. (1999).
Since the year 1980 the divorce rates were twice as big as before. This meant that about one-third of all children lived in single parent families or in step-families.
The statistical researches at that time showed that:
– ¼ of all families didn’t have children at all
– ¼ of all families lived in couples
– ¼ of families were headed by females
– 4 % of families were extended.
Thus, we can come to the conclusion that as well as the family ideals were changing, the number or single-parent families and the attitude to them, was changing as well.
If to count the number of single mothers in relation to single fathers the correlation will be nine to one, that means that children in most cases are left with their mother. It is clear that mothers are usually more close to their children and are more concerned about them, though there are some exceptions, but there are a lot of difficulties that single mothers have to face. In most cases women have lower paid jobs and the problems of income are vital for single mothers headed households. All low income families have financial problems, but in this case women have to raise their children on top of it. The researches showed that “about 50 % of all households in poverty were female-headed. It is not only because of low wages that women get, but mostly because of the lack of another earners in the family, as a result there are cases when children start to work early in order to help their mothers” (Amato, P. R. (1993)). The only positive moment here is the fact that they do not have to buy as much food as it is needed when there is a male parent living together with them.
The researches prove that the age of women from female-headed households and from two-parent households was similar, but women from female-headed households had to take additional hours or even to work the full time.
There is often a problem of single mothers among teenagers. Young girls are left with their kinds and their fathers just disappear. Then there are a lot of problems connected not only with finance but many others as well.
The financial situation is not that hard by African-American single mothers, as the percentage of their income to the whole income of the family was bigger, but they have little chance to receive any child support money or other state payments. About “25% of Spanish households in Los Angeles, California and Arizona were headed by women, about 17.3 % of Hispanic households also had a female had” (Grossman, A. S., & Hayghe, H. (1982)).
To draw a conclusion to this part we should mention that the cases of female-headed households happen more often, the problems they face are lack of finances and the need to spend a lot of time at work.
Fathers make about 13% of single parents in the USA. Nowadays fathers are more used to take some female roles at home. They are more involved with their children and in house chores. Before men were primary caregivers, only some of them had to raise their children alone due to the death of their wives.
As men usually have higher positions at work they have higher incomes as well, thus they seldom face the same financial problems that single women do. On the other hand fathers do not always succeed in finding common language with their children and the results are that children raised by a single father are more likely to start using drugs or developing drinking habits, or start early sexual life. Although there is a common opinion that fathers are stricter than mothers, they are often not able to communicate with their children as well as the mothers can do it. Sometimes father are themselves not disciplined or organized enough, than it is not surprising if they can not help their children to develop such qualities. On the other hand, a good father could as well be a good example for his son, a good model of behavior, some mothers have problems with their sons as at some certain age they need the strong influence of a man.
The percentage of too young fathers is lower in comparison with teenager girls who have kids.
In the twentieth century the number of male-headed households increased greatly among Latino, Asian and “Other” race households.
It a fact that single families are not the American phenomenon, there are a lot of them all around the world. The number of single parent households increased greatly in England and in Australia during 1990s. “In the UK lone-parents families formed about 3.3% of all households, the percentage of them in Australia was even higher – 7.6%.
Talking about other countries we should mention:
Belgium – 1.8 – 2.7 %
Ireland – 2.8 %
Luxemburg – 2.2 %
Japan – 5.1 %” (Quinlan, Robert J. (2003)).
In all countries most of single parents are women. Such countries as Greece, Portugal and Italy have more conservative views concerning family issues and thus they have much lower percentage of single parent families.
Raising a child on one’s own is a rather hard and stressful experience, single parents have to take a lot of effort in order to develop better organization skills, and they depend on many factors and have more responsibility for their children. Being a single parent doesn’t although mean that a person should be separated from the whole world and stay alone with his problems and difficulties. They should look for and use the support that can be provided for them by the society. Single parents should never feel ashamed or allow their pride make obstacles for the support they can get from others. If there is a strong network of friends, other family members and community resources is built around the single parents, it would be much easier for him or for her to copy with all the difficulties. There are several areas where single parents need strong support from the society: emotional support, social network support, self-esteem support, informational support and so on. These types of support might come from friends, co-workers, neighbors and counseling services.
Overall, in this paper we tried to look upon the major issues connected with problems of single-parent families, discussed some historical facts, defined the two types of households- headed by men and headed by women, named shortly the main strengths and weaknesses of them, presented the short analysis of race, age and financial factors connected with the issue, and at last concentrated briefly upon the possible support sources for single parents.
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