Single-parent families can be defined as those families where a parent, i.e. a mother or a father, lives with the dependent children and takes the responsibilities of the children in order to provide them a decent lifestyle at least. Either they live alone or in a larger household but without spouse or partner. Single-parent families can arise due to death of the partner, divorce or separation with the partner, non-marital child bearing, abandonment, etc.
Life of a single-parent is besieged and struggling. The journey is not a cake walk at all, especially when one has not chosen this kind of life. For a single parent, it is quite obvious to feel resentful and aggrieved. It is so challenging for a single parent to cope with all the care-giving, nurturing and role-modelling when there is no one to share the day to day responsibilities or decision making. Tough though, but a single parent has to mentally and emotionally prepare herself/himself for all the challenges, obstacles and failures. One has to enable and adjust to the new role, help and support the kids in every possible manner, take care of the needs of the children, balance effective parenting with career, deal with societal prejudice and preconceived notions, etc. (Peterson, 2009)
Though, all single-parent families have to go through a bumpy ride, but every single-parent family is similar or different with each other in quite many ways.
A very common reason for single parent families is death of the spouse, majorly due to accidents and severe health issues. This is a very unfortunate phase for a person as on one hand he has to deal with the trauma of losing his partner and on the other hand he has to assist his children and other family members. Death of the loved ones causes an emotional turmoil, during this phase a person is emotionally drained to the extent that he does not wish to trust God and builds a fear of losing his near and dear ones. Children observe mourn, grief and
sadness in the atmosphere and they are adversely affected. According to the study conducted in the US, 2012, children aged between 2-7 years tend to get stable because they are easily distracted whereas teenagers are affected the most by the death of their parents because it is that tender age when they need financial, emotional and psychological support of their parents. (Kim, 2001)
According to Charles A. Donovan, a senior policy consultant at the Family Research Council, 72% of the single parents gather courage to get out of the trauma, to support children and other family members. 82% of the single mothers step out of their homes and strive hard to work and earn in order to provide good education and bright future to the children.
Another reason for single parent families is divorce or separation. When marriages turn sour and when one can’t withstand the partner, then serious fights and blame games takeover love and respect. There is a negativity in the atmosphere, there may be ongoing conflicts over child custody and visitation. Children grow up seeing the fights, stress, conflicts, etc. Sometimes, children tend to become unsocial and try to stay away from relationships and institution of marriage, this would be a major difference between single parent families arising due to death and divorce. Though a major similarity would be that a single-parent has to look after the needs, aspirations and desires of his child and has to make sure that academically & socially his child is doing well. (Lyster, 2003)
According to a research conducted by 2 Canadian sociologists, 2013, 6 out of 10 Kenyan women are victims of abandonment and desertion. An array of factors like irresponsible fathers, peer pressure, escapism, betrayal, etc. are responsible for children being born out of wedlock. This trend is not only ruining the life of women and children but also negatively impacting the society as a whole. In such situation, an unmarried single mother has to bear
and face the bitter words of society or sometimes the family members disown the single mother due to societal pressures, in fact, honour killing is common in some areas of India, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. (Yoo, 2006)
Unmarried single mothers, who gather courage to raise their children in an unsupportive environment feel the same stress, grief, sorrow, heartache and anguish as felt by those who are either widowed or divorced. But here, the major difference would be the feeling of betrayal, rejection and perfidy. Worst situation occurs, when a child gets to know that he is abandoned; behaviours such as bed wetting, temper tantrums, restlessness, intrusive thoughts, truancy, aggression, etc. are common. Therefore; to be on the right track they require utmost support, love, care and affection of the single parent.
Every single parent family deserves a salute for overcoming their pains & sorrows and working hard to get a normal lifestyle. These families are trying to be interdependent, work together, solve issues together, grow together and face the world together.
Anderson, S. (2000). The Journey from Abandonment to Healing. New York: Berkley Books.
Kim, K. (2001). Single parenthood & effect on children’s academic achievement. Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 11, pp.101–123.
Lyster, M.E. (2003) Child Custody. New York: Nolo Press.
Peterson, M. (2009) Single Parenting for Dummies. New York: Wiley & Sons.
Teyber, E. (2001) Helping Children Cope with Divorce. New York: Jossey-Bass.
Yoo, G. (2006). Changing views on family diversity in urban Korea. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Vol. 37, Issue no. 4, pp. 59–74.