Most children who grow up in single-parent families don't face serious problems.

The Effects of Single Parenting on American Society

by Morgan Rush

In American society, even discussing single parenting can have a polarizing effect, according to an article in "The American Prospect" titled “The Consequences of Single Motherhood.” Effects are difficult to isolate, because single parenthood has links with other factors, including poverty. While it’s difficult to make an overarching statement about the effects of single parenting on American society, it is true that some children and parents face additional challenges because of their single-parent family status.

Historical View

In the 1960s, future New York U.S. senator and Democratic thinker Daniel Patrick Moynihan stirred American society by pointing out the negative effect of a generation of children being raised by single-parent families, according to Sara McLanahan in her article, “The Consequences of Single Parenthood for Subsequent Generations.” Moynihan had stated that children from single-parent families wouldn’t be able to access opportunities available through some government programs. McLanahan states that early sociological studies into single parenting struggled with accuracy, defining “single parent,” and determining economic status. This created the possibility for muddled results. although McLanahan states that most research confirms that single-parent families face challenges that are particular to their structure.


Single parenting has become more common in American society since 1950, according to the Encyclopedia of Children's Health. About 11 percent of children lived in single-parent families in 1970, and the percentage began to grow as divorce became more common. By 1996, the number of children living in single-parent families increased to 31 percent. However, these statistics can be misleading because many people who are classified as “single parents” actually live with an adult partner who is helping raise the child. In some cases, that adult partner might be a parent of the child, but the parents remain unmarried. The most common type of single-parent family includes single mothers with her biological children, although single fathers raising their biological children have become more common.

Psychological Effects

In a 2012 article titled “The Psychological Impact of Single Parenting,” psychiatrist Keith Ablow states that children from single-parent families sometimes struggle with emotional challenges. In some cases, children might wonder why their parents did not remain together. They might also worry about the well-being of a parent who does not live with them. Children want to feel as though their parents are safe, and they want to feel safe themselves. Living in a single-parent family might make some children worry about the consistency and security of their domestic or familial arrangements. Children might also struggle with loyalty issues, feeling unsure about whether it’s acceptable to feel warmth or compassion toward a parent who is not present.


Although statistics often illustrate that children living in single-family homes are more likely to face risks such as poverty or dropping out of school, an article available through the New York State Unified Court System, titled “Single Parent Households: Are Children Growing Up In Them Really All Right?” encourages caution. Married parents really serve as an advantage when the marriage is “healthy” or “stable.” Most children who grow up in single-parent homes grow up without experiencing serious problems.

About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.

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