All types of family structures can provide quality time for children.

Data on Single Parent vs. Dual Parent Households

by Melinda Kedro

Preparing to embark upon the journey of single parenthood poses many questions and concerns. Exploring the differences between single-parent and dual-parent households can arm you with helpful information to establish a successful homelife and a positive relationship with your child, regardless of whether you are parenting independently or with a partner.

1. Economic Differences

Pew Research Center, an American think tank organization specializing in social and demographic trends, revealed that in 2011 all households with children reported an average yearly income of $57,100. Single mothers who were divorced, separated or widowed earned an average yearly income of $29,000. The median family income for single mothers who had never been married in 2011 was $17,400, just slightly above poverty level. These statistics show that single parents are more susceptible to financial hardship than families with two parents contributing an income. Other statistics from the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank in Princeton, New Jersey, demonstrate that 66 percent of children from single-parent households live below the poverty level and nearly 50 percent of adults who receive welfare began the program after becoming a single parent. Only about 10 percent of children raised in a two-parent family live below the poverty level.

2. Social, Cognitive and Psychological Implications

Studies conducted by Dr. Paul Amato, Professor of Family Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University show that children who grow up with both biological parents in the same household are less likely to experience a variety of cognitive, emotional and social problems. Dual-parent households often maintain higher standards of living, therefore providing more effective parenting skills with less stressful life circumstances. Examining potential advantages of a single-parent household is also beneficial. Leaving a relationship that exposes your child to marital conflict is a positive change because your child will no longer be entangled in parental discord at home. The focus of homelife shifts to the parent-child relationship and daily activities can be more structured around the child. Children of single parents are likely to develop skills of independence, responsibility and self-sufficiency at an early age.

3. Long-Term Effects

Research conducted by Sara McLanahan, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison posits specific long-term outcomes for children of single-parent households. Her studies reflect that a high percentage of single mothers never graduate from high school and that this increases the chances of their children not graduating from high school by 10 percent. Exposure to single parenthood as a child also raises the probability of next generation single parenthood by approximately 120 percent. McLanahan's research testifies that daughters of single parents are 30 to 53 percent more likely to marry as teenagers, 75 to 111 percent more likely to give birth while teenagers and are more likely to experience marital severance and have babies out of wedlock. These statistics may reflect the result of single-parenting disadvantages such as less supervisory methods utilized during adolescent years and reduced ability for effective disciplining.

4. Importance of Homelife

While much of the research conducted on single-parent and dual-parent households points to the disadvantages of single-parent families, there is extreme relevance in emphasizing the value of a secure, consistent, loving homelife to a child's upbringing. Single parents and dual parents alike have the ability to create a homelife for their child that provides stability, emotional support and dependability. Further studies conducted by Dr. Paul Amato along with Frieda Fowler, Department of Sociology at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, demonstrate that positive parenting techniques -- regardless of family structure, income level or diversity -- directly correlate to a favorable outcome for a child's development and success later in life. Any parenting model, whether it's single parent, biological dual parent, stepparent or cross-generational has the capacity to incorporate positive parenting methods such as understanding developmental needs, talking and listening, modeling respect, encouragement and participation.

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