The occurrence of single-parent households is increasing in society. The effects that have been documented on children are increased behavioral problems, drug abuse, early sexual intercourse, and poverty that become multi-generational. The cost to society is in the billions of dollars, including welfare, public health, childcare subsidies, and crime. The research available concentrates on single-mothers. They have the most measurable effects on our society and the maternal bonds with children are the most important for a good start for children, therefore, this paper will concentrate on this group.
The New York Times published an article that explained, “An increasing number of unmarried mothers look a lot more like Fran McElhill and Nancy Clark--they are college-educated, and they are in their 30s, 40s and 50s.” (Coulter, 2009) “Meanwhile, single motherhood costs taxpayers about $112 billion every year, according to a 2008 study by Georgia State University economist Benjamin Scafidi.” (Coulter 2009)
In a study done by April Crawford, University of Houston, Crawford states, “In the wake of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), states have had to increase the amount of money they spend on child care to support the tougher work requirements ushered in by the reform.” (Crawford 2006) Though the states have different criteria for the eligibility, some welfare payments outweigh the benefits of work. It also depends on how self motivated the single mother is toward getting a job. Those receive Temporary Aid to Needy Families funds are less likely to work full time than those who do not receive funds. The younger the single mother, the less likely to work and receive these subsidies for childcare and end up staying on welfare. The older a mother is the more likely to work and the amount she works is greater. Two parent families have a primary earner, usually the father, and the stresses of economics and survival have two people to properly see to the needs of the children. The better the maternal bond with a child, the better the outlook for healthy sociocultural relationships and a better outlook for cognitive development. In a study by Blau and Tekin, only 12.5% of eligible people take advantage of the child care subsidy and 21% receive welfare. (Blau, Tekin 2004)
In a study called Employment Status, Depressive Symptoms, and the Mediating/Moderating Effects of Single Mothers’ Coping Repertoire, Joan Samuels-Dennis states, “Single mothers report two to three times the prevalence of depressive symptoms as the general population (Cairney, Thorpe, Rietschlim, & Avison, 1999; Lipman, Offord, & Boyle, 1997; Wang, 2004) and three to five times the prevalence if they are also single mothers on social assistance (Bryne et al., 1998; Hall, Gurley, Sachs, & Kryscio, 1991; Kalil, Born, Kunz, & Caudill, 2001).” (Samuels-Dennis 2007) Most of the studies suggest that single mothers have higher stress than married mothers because of the lack of support from the father. This support from fathers is important financially and emotionally. Even when there is a father who at least stays involved is better than no father.
In a study done on adolescent mothers and depression, “Adolescent mothers reported experiencing many negative feelings that they called stress and depression, baby blues, frustration, and sadness. The negative feelings were in response to external rather than internal forces.” (Logsdon et al. 2009) These emotions impact the mother and child relationship. When there is a partner and the responsibility is shared, some of these stressors are relieved. A study done on single mothers who serve in the Navy questioned 50 active service mothers. Their situation is unique because they often are deployed for long periods of time. These mothers must rely on family or friends as support systems. There is little help from the Navy, as it is a male dominated profession and harder to reach out to the community because most military bases have structures of support for nuclear families but not single parent families. There is more support for single civilians than for military single mothers and the leadership is male dominated. Navy mothers are especially prone to guilt because of their long deployments, which affects their mental health. The stronger her support system the better off her and her children will be. (Tucker & Kelley 2009)
“African-American youth are increasingly more likely to grow up in single mother homes (51%), relative to American youth generally (23%; U.S. Census, 2006). Given the disproportionate number of African American youth being raised in single mother homes, growing research attention has been devoted to developing a better understanding of those youth who fare well in spite of this risk factor (e.g., Brody & Flor, 1998; Jessor, 1993; Kim & Brody, 2005).” (Sterrett, Jones, and Kincaid 2009)
In an article called, “Real Civil-Rights Leaders Would Be Appalled. Discrimination and poverty are down, but black violence and family breakdowns are up. Why?” By Walter Williams, PhD., a leading black professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Williams states, “The pathology seen among a large segment of the black population is not likely to change, because it’s not seen for what it is. It has little to do with slavery, poverty and racial discrimination.” (Williams, pg.22, Whistleblower Magazine September 2010) “Today’s black illegitimacy rate is about 70 percent.” (Williams 2010) “During the 1940s illegitimacy was around 15 percent. In the same period, about 80 percent of black children were born inside marriage.” A leading indicator of how well a family will do in socioeconomic status is illegitimacy. As illegitimacy rises, real opportunity and higher socioeconomic status falls. “Herbert Gutman, in “Persistent Myths about the Afro-American Family” in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History (Autumn 1975), reports the percentage of black two-parent families, depending on the city, ranged from 75 to 90 percent. Today only 35 percent of black children are raised in two-parent households. The importance of these and other statistics showing greater stability and less pathology among blacks in earlier periods is that they put a lie to today’s excuses. Namely, at a time when blacks were closer to slavery, faced far more discrimination, more poverty, and had fewer opportunities, there was not the kind of chaos, violence, family breakdown and black racism we see today.” (Williams 2010)
The consequences of single motherhood fall hardest on the children. Though most things you read point to poverty as the cause of children’s bad behavior, crime, drug abuse and poor academic achievement the main cause is having no father in the home. According to Haren, Turkheimer, Van Hulle, D’Onofiro & Brooks-Gunn et al. (2009), “Compared to children raised by both biological parents, children who are raised in households without their biological father present exhibit both an earlier age of first intercourse and significantly increased rates of teenage pregnancy (Ellis et al., 2003; Hogan & Kitagawa, 1985; Kiernan & Hobcraft, 1997; Newcomer & Udry, 1987; Quinlan, 2003; Wight, Williamson, & Henderson, 2006).” This study does propose it may be a genetic and/or environmental factor, but I don’t see that they actually used the proper parameters (substitution of cousins for sisters at one point). When we study imitation and modeling in psychology I can see a correlation between single mothers and their daughters having the same kinds of relationships. We live what we learn at home. What the children see us practice, they will practice.
In the study The Social Context of Sexual Health and Sexual Risk for Urban Adolescent Girls in the United States (July 2009), the authors interviewed teenage girls and found that the biggest influence on their decisions to have sexual intercourse were mothers. But some of the complaints were their mother treated them like friends instead of daughters and received mixed messages. “In the other social spheres outside of the family (friends/peers, partners, school, media), information was often limited, guidance was minimal, and pressures to adhere to narrow standards of behavior and appearance were strong.” (Teitelman, Bohinski, and Boente, 2009)
After reading these research papers and journals and am even more convinced that we need to educate our children about abstinence and carefully monitor media influences. Young people are having sex too young. Sex education in the schools is starting a younger ages and in more detail than ever before. The birth of children to unwed mothers is an epidemic. The costs to our society, to the children, and the mothers themselves are having an alarming affect on our society. My viewpoint is functionalist. We have removed the stigma of pre-marital sex, glorified single motherhood among the rich and famous, have left father’s out in the cold when it comes to parental rights, and have let the attitude of “if it feels good, do it” take over common sense. Billions of dollars are spent on welfare alone. The cost in medical terms is also in the billions. We haven’t given our children the structure we took for granted and gave them a dangerous world to navigate. The media and movies are always pushing the envelope farther and farther away from traditional values. Traditional values serve a societal purpose. They have served us well for over 2000 years. Marriage is now being redefined and having traditional values makes you judgmental. I think it is time to wake up because we are going to lose future generations and become a poorer country for it. I still believe in American Exceptionalism and Judeo-Christian values. I have seen up close and personal the detrimental affects of single motherhood and I believe we can do better.