August 3, 2018 in Analysis
The Effects of Single Parenting on Childhood Development

Among the most important of human values family occupies one of the leading places

The role of the family is incomparable in strength neither with society, nor with any other social institutions, as namely in the family human personality is formed and developed. It is the mastery of social roles that is required for painless adaptation of a child into society. Family serves as the first educational institution, for which a person feels for their entire life. Among the causes of family problems can be distinguished changes in economic, political, and social spheres. All these have a negative impact on the relationship between family members, especially between parents and children. One of the most common relationships within a single-parent family is dysfunctional. Absence of a comprehensive model for intra-socialization almost always leads to certain disturbances in mental and personal development of a child.

It is in the family, where the foundations of the human morality are established, the norms of behavior are emerging, and the inner world of the individual and personality traits reveals. The family not only promotes the formation of the individual, but also of an individual’s self-affirmation, social engagement, creative activity, and personality in general.

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Currently, however, many children are raised in the single-parent families

Nowadays, there is an increasing number of divorces, large number of illegitimate births, and the mortality rate due to various causes is high among adults that are still in a fairly young age, (accidents at work, alcoholism, drug addiction, disease, etc.). As a consequence of all this, one-parent families emerge, bringing up one or more children.

It should be noted that the direction and dynamics of the social development of a child in the family depends on its educational potential, effectiveness of the implementation of which is determined by various factors, both objective and subjective. Overall educational potential of the family can be represented as due to the social relations, and the social level of development of its capabilities in shaping personality, realized through all aspects of its activities. Thus, as a rule, educational potential of families is:

  • A personal example of parents, their public face, the authority, based on active citizenship; Way of life of the family, traditions, family relations;
  • Emotional and moral climate;
  • Rational organization of free time and leisure of the family.

It should be noted that the most frequently, as the most important components of the educational potential of family, inner family are defined, specified in turn, the moral example of parents, family structure, its functioning, level of education and pedagogical culture of the parents, the extent of their responsibility for the upbringing of children. In addition, the importance of family relations is conditioned by the fact that they are the first in a specific way of public relations, facing child from the moment of birth; as a result, a child gets a speaking and thinking skills, and experience. In the system of family relations the relationship between the couple is overriding, which forms a particular emotional and moral climate in the family, and is determining the educational possibilities of the family (Elliott & Richards, 2004).

Thus, disruption of the family relationships, being a handicap in family socialization, contributes to the weakening of the educational potential of the family and, as a consequence, arising of the risk in the social development. Among the main causes of the subjective and objective nature, disrupting family relations, various social crisis situations can be highlighted, arising (hypothetical or real) in the life of a single family.

We should distinguish between the three categories of the single-parent families (Durnbusch & Gray, 1988):

  • Families that have lost their father through death;
  • Families with a child born out of conjugal marriage;
  • Post-divorce families.

The first category is a special group of the single-parent families; the disintegration of the family happened due to father’s unintentional death. Psychological characteristics of children in these families are determined by the fact of grief, not single parenting. However, this category of family cannot avoid the effects of the three common characteristics to fall apart:

  • The emotional security is stroked;
  • The effectiveness of the family decreases due to the loss of father and his specific roles and responsibilities;
  • There are deviations from the normal family model with regard to others.

The next category in the single-parent families is bastardy. In this situation, the mother feels a sense of loneliness and increased responsibility for the child, which turns into the overprotective behavior. Excessive dependency on the mother often combined in children with a sense of hostility and idealization of the absent father.

The third category is characterized by a family divorce

Let us dwell on this category of families in more detail. The treatment by the scientists of the problem of the influence of divorce on the development of the child is not univocal. Thus, advocates of the “attachment theory”, which focuses on the relationship of the child with a mother, believe that a divorce for children is not a big deal, because the lion’s share of child care in the two-parent families is provided not by the father but by the mother. The role of the father is generally limited by games and entertainment (Leibowitz, 1977).

Accumulating evidence not only confirms the influence of parents’ divorce on the subsequent development of children’s behavior, but also suggests that this effect may be even more significant than the death of a parent. These studies indicate that the frequency of offenses between the boys from the divorced families is about two times higher than from the remaining families (Corak, 2001).

Usually, under divorce is meant the time, when the couple stops living together. However, the divorce should be seen as a process unfolding over time that starts long before the separation. In many cases, this is quite a long period of conflict between spouses. Namely conflicts and disharmony in the family, not the collapse itself, is a source of a negative impact on the child.

The effects of the chronic conflicts in the family for emotional well-being of the child in before-divorce situation were analyzed in studies by Cavanagh & Huston (2006). According to them, in the conflict families, the principal conditions for the proper development of the child, protection, love and care for loved ones, affection and kindness to each other, are violated. Lack of security experienced by a child as a sense of fear, anxiety and worry, inhibits its activity, distorts the feelings and thoughts, and creates depression or aggression, as the leading features of the personal and social behavior. In the extreme conditions, according to the authors, situational emotional reaction of fear can turn into a persistent trait. Fear of a parent often causes neurotic attachment to another in search of the missing heat. All this forms a distorted “image of self” and low self-esteem of a child (Cavanagh & Huston, 2006).

Children caught up between the parents’ quarrels have a terrible internal conflict. They love their parents and fear that fall short of their expectations and lose the love of one of them. As a result, a child of divorce involved into the disturbed emotional relationships and interactions with one or both parents, thinks that he/she fails to meet the demands of love, parental warmth, attention and care; thus, developing an emotional deprivation.

J. Wallerstein and J. Kelly (1980), suggest that the decision of parents to divorce is often preceded by a long period of uncertainty about the child, leading to a sharp interruption of the process of his/her development, which can significantly contribute to a violation of the psychological and social functioning of the child. Thus, the development of a child’s personality is influenced not only by divorce and single parenting, but his/her life in a family of divorce, as reconstituted family long before the separation of the parents is not a happy family.

Another factor that has a negative impact on the mental development of the child is the divorce itself and the subsequent crisis. The news of the divorce of parents for most children is a shock, as parents often do not speak of an impending divorce until the very last moment. According to Wallerstein and Kelly, the children at a young age are not ready to accept the news even in the families, where the parents did not hide their quarrels and were “open” at odds. Pre-school children tend to be shocked and horrified. Especially painful sufferings from the family breakdown are experienced by girls and boys of 2-5 years 5-7 years old. They believe that they were doing something very wrong and feel guilty for the divorce of parents. The same feeling of guilt leads to loss of self-usefulness, separation fear, loss of love, fear of retribution, and fear of losing father and after him – mother. This fear is based on the children’s shocking discovery about the nature of love passing.

In the early school years, according to Wallerstein and Kelly, most children understand that they are not to be blamed for the divorce; however, they are still worried about their future. A distinctive feature of this age group is an acute sense of shame. Children are ashamed to admit that the father’s departure means the rejection of them; therefore, they are not worthy of love. Such a situation has a direct negative impact on the development of self-consciousness of the child (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).

Only in 13-18 years, according to G. Wallerstein, the children are able to make an adequate understanding of the causes of divorce and their relationship with their parents, and to put aside feelings of resentment, anger and blame towards one or both parents at the same time (Wallerstein, 1983).

In the short run, divorce always hurts children

Its long-term effects have been studied much less, but it is believed that one-parent family under the certain circumstances brings certain deformation in value orientations of the child’s behavior, in particular, and a way of life, in general.

Violation of emotional relationships with the closest family environment and a high degree of conflict of former relatives increase the risk of the formation of children from broken homes pathological traits of the neurotic disorders. According to studies, 70% of children’s neuroses have their origin in family conflicts, and half adolescents aged 16-18 years, who committed suicide attempts, were brought up in the single parent families (Seltzer, 1994).

After the divorce, conflicts with children in the one-parent families are 2.5 times more likely than in the full families, which are the additional factors of neurotic children, especially boys. Mothers, who stay with the girls, however, conflict with them 2.5 times less. This is explained by the fact that the mother, unlike the father, has lower level of neuroticism is not in conflict either with her husband or with the child. Taking on the role of the father and in connection with this general emotional and physical overload mothers increases their nervousness even more, thus, producing frequent conflicts with the child and, thus, speeding up the process of neuroticism (Sigle-Rushton & McLanahan, S. 2002).

Single parenting affects the future of marriage and family relations of the child. Large-scale study of American scientists, Glenn and Kramer, was dedicated to the suggestion that as adults, children of divorced parents are likely to get divorced themselves in future (Glenn & Kramer, 1987).

G. Figdor believes that single mothers often tend to make their relationships with children “pedagogical”. They subordinate the interests of all the children, give them more rights than to the children in the families with two parents, and greater restrictions on their child’s high expectations, which to a large extent is contrary to the needs of a child development. A woman uses a mother’s role as a chance to assert herself after the defeat in the role of a wife. Another reason is the sense of guilt, as she believes that by signing a divorce she caused harm and pain to her child. This term “pedagogizirovanie” is a big load for both mother and child.

Adolescents, who have experienced parental divorce, have greater emotional instability and personal immaturity, less power “I”, increased emotional sensitivity and passivity, timidity, fearfulness, and indecision. This is largely determined by personal changes in the parents, which explain the structure of the family conflict and biases in the educational approach to children.

Because of the absence of the father in the family, sex identification among the children of 10-15 years old of single-parent families, especially boys, is difficult. Long intervals in the meetings with the father are able to generate the effect of “family of strangers”. The father to the child may be more attractive than the mother. Fromm emphasizes that a child needs a father throughout his development. However, he/she is particularly in need of his father’s love, power, and leadership after 6 years of age. Attraction of the child to the father, and an ability of father to fully accept the child stimulate his intellectual development. At the same time, 60% of decelerating in school pupils were raised without fathers (Haveman & Wolfe, 1995).

G. Figdor (1995) believes that in the development of the child in most families the father performs the following important functions: representation of the “outside world”, with respect to acts and attacks child representation of the properties, “big”, “powerful and consequent”, “competitive”, “capable of self-assertion”, and finally, later in life representation of professional success and social status (Lye, eds., 1995).

Absence of a father in a child aged 4-5 years has a greater negative effect than for the child later in life. They argue, for example, that boys who lost their father at 4-5 years have low male sexual-role orientation, and more sex-role conflicts than children, who lost their father later in life. These conflicts are often linked to the inadequate assessment of the person as functioning in the male role with the appropriate behaviors not being formed (Sigle-Rushton & McLanahan, 2002).

Research shows that education without a father is most obviously reflected in the gender identity of both boys and girls. Experience of relationship with the father is important for girls, especially in terms of the formation of the “image of the man”. Girls can form an idealized image of father, and according to it will go to find the love object (Albert, Brum & Flamingen, 2003).

However, the scientists believe that a well-functioning divorced family has the capabilities of managing gender identity of the child. First, the relationships of children with the divorced father have to be established and included into the everyday life in order to eliminate the idealizations process or to neglect him. Second, it is desirable that the mother feels good and leads the family’s social life. Finally, divorced and single mothers should try to intensify contacts of children with men (grandfathers, uncles, and teachers).

Czech psychologist, Z. Mateychek, believes that upbringing in the conditions of single parenting is the same routine as the normal upbringing, but in more difficult conditions. He argues that the personality traits of a person, who was left with one child, has to be considered most (Lang & Zagorsky, 2001). The ability of the teacher to meet all the requirements in shaping a child’s personality plays much more important role than the fact that the family is not complete. The child must feel that he/she can rely on every word and action of the adult, regardless of what it is: a promise, a threat, or a frank conversation. Authority and respect cannot awake reproaches or calls for sympathy. The authority needs to grow gradually, as a result of cultural contact with people, serious, sensible, obvious to the child-centered approach to problem solving, questions, and above all, truthful and sincere teacher.

In addition, we must not forget that the child himself/herself by his/her temperament characteristics affects the formation of the self-personality. A child is not a passive participant of the educational process. A life in the single-parent family is cooperation in the social life, as well as in the family life.

The special features include parent family and the fact that a single parent raising a child can still remarry. It brings positive results, if the new marriage will increase the confidence of the inner life of mother, and, thus, the child.

Psychological studies have shown that the children of mothers, who are ready with the quick wit to answer their questions, to comment on their actions, and to show interest in “their discoveries”, develop their emotional stability very well even in the single parent families. There is no need to engage in long and hard conversations with a child; the only need is to enable them to act and be in the “open world”. Child should be supported by the advice and assistance in any time he/she may need it.

One-parent family has its own characteristics and socio-pedagogical work. It requires taking into account all its characteristics. The problem of an incomplete individual member of the family is a common problem for the whole one-parent family. Single- parent family is the closed system; no one can enter there, even the social worker. Basically, one-parent family is autonomous in its life. Professionals working with families cannot solve all their problems of it; however, they can activate on the resolution of family problems, achieve awareness of the problem, and create conditions for a successful solution.


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