Family dynamics play a major role in shaping a child’s behavior. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children who grow up in single parent homes are more likely to be financially and educationally disadvantaged than children raised by two parents. The financial and educational hardships faced by children from single parent households often lead to a variety of behavior problems.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that single parent households, particularly those headed by single mothers, are more likely to live in poverty. Living in poverty inevitably creates stress that can wreak havoc on a child’s cognitive, emotional and social well-being. Single parents, regardless of gender, are more likely to face financial hardships as they struggle to make ends meet with only one income. Lack of economic resources makes it more challenging for single parents to provide their child with books, educational technology, private lessons or other instructional tools that can help him increase his chances of academic achievement. Economic hardship also makes it more likely for a child to live in rundown, crime-ridden neighborhoods with low-quality schools. Children living in poverty-stricken, single parent households are more likely to develop emotional and behavioral problems and less likely to establish healthy social connections or achieve academic success.
Quality of Parenting Effects
While a child’s cognitive, emotional and social well-being is more heavily influenced by quality of parenting than family structure, single parents generally struggle to balance quality parenting with the pressure of trying to fulfill the financial responsibilities necessary to maintain the family. According to research findings published on The Future of Children’s website, single parents are more likely to suffer from depression and rate lower on quality parenting than their coupled counterparts. Some of the negative outcomes related to poor quality parenting include academic problems, emotional problems, conduct problems, self-esteem problems and problems establishing and maintaining social relationships.
In addition to carrying most, if not all, of the financial burden for the family, single parents are also responsible for ensuring that their child’s basic needs are continually met and that domestic responsibilities are taken care of. The job of a single parent is often so physically and emotionally taxing that there is rarely enough time or energy left over to help support a child’s learning at home. Single parents are less likely to read to their child or help with homework, which hinders the child’s early literacy development and school readiness. According to the Heritage Foundation, children from single-parent households are more likely to engage in disruptive classroom behavior, which in turn leads to lower academic achievement. Children from single-parent families generally perform lower in school than children from two-parent households.
Depression, low self-esteem, frustration and anger are just a few of the emotional effects that a child from a single-parent family is likely to exhibit. A child living in a single-parent household is more prone to display aggressive, withdrawn and anxious behavior than a child from a two-parent household. Other emotional effects may include loneliness and feelings of abandonment.
Family structure plays a major role in how a child learns to socialize with others. Since single-parent households are less likely to model effective social interaction, the child is more likely to struggle socially and have a hard time connecting with others. Potential conflict between the single parent and the non-resident parent can also add to a child’s stress and inability to forge quality social connections.