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The Impact of Single Parenting on a Child's Behavior

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Traditional families that consist of two parents and their children with both parents in their first marriage have become less common in the United States. The increasing rate of divorce over the years resulted in an increasing number of binuclear, or single-parent families as well. Divorce is the most common reason for these types of families, which are also formed from those who have never married or chose the single life. This drastic experience can be stressful and uncomfortable because old familiar patterns are dismantled by the separation. The new family form of a single-parent family reflects the child’s membership in two separate and distinct households. One usually is designated the physical custodian, meaning that the children reside the majority of the time in that parent’s household. New patterns, rules, roles, and modification are formed to restore equilibrium and allow the system to function.

Family systems theory predicts that all members are affected when one key member experiences a major change. Divorce dissolves the effective functioning of the committed relationship between the adult partners, which in return disrupts the functioning of parent-child relationships as well as the entire family system. Adults experience a variety of reactions including, depression, weight-loss, sleep disturbances, likelihood of substance abuse, anger, and hostility. There are certain things with the adults which should take place for a smooth transition. First, a family metacognition which is the recognition that divorce is about to happen and the adults no longer share similar feeling of love and attachment. Second is physical separation, which is the actual physical splitting of parents. Third, family system reorganization which is when adults forge a new relationship with children with different rules, roles, and interaction patterns. And lastly, family redefinition which takes place when the noncustodial parent reorganizes interaction patterns, boundaries, and rules governed how they relate to the single-parent family system and members. A major challenge for divorcing parents is to acknowledge that they continue to share parental responsibilities and relationships with their children, despite that their marriage has been dismantled.

Researchers have learned that children’s reactions to parental divorce involves a process of adjusting to change. This process is dependent on other factors including age, gender, and past experiences, which undergo in three distinct stages. The initial stage occurs after parents inform the child of the decision to separate. Transitioning stage commences about a year after the parents separation and last up to approximately three years. Emotions are equaled out and new family patterns are evolved, change of the quality of life, and establishment of visitation routines with the noncustodial parent. Then finally, the restabilization stage occurs approximately five years after the separation, when the new single-parent family system is more stable. Several factors appear to influence the course of children’s adjustment to the family crisis; gender and age of the child when the parental divorce occurs, adults’ use of available social support networks to help the child adjust, cultural attitudes towards divorce and single-parent families.

Single-parent families and its transition through parental divorce means a lot to me because such drastic affects it can have on children of any age. These effects on children may be short or long term, positive or detrimental. Short term effects include behavioral difficulties at home and a school that present in association with the initial reaction to the separation. Long term effects may not appear until adolescence or even adulthood, when individuals have trouble and difficulties establishing intimate relationships. Other long term effects appear later during later development stages. The child’s gender can also mediate such reactions. Boys have more adverse reactions to parental divorce than girls, although girls act more adversely to parental remarriage. Also, children who become part of blended families as a result of death of one parent and the subsequent remarriage of the surviving parent also may face unique different emotional challenges.

Why important to you and your life?

This specific topic of single-parent families and transitioning of parental divorce applies to my life due to coming from a single-parent household myself. Although I was born into a two-parent household, my parents decided to mutually separate at the age of 16, the summer before my junior year in high school. This didn’t come to me by surprise though. Things were starting to change around the house that as a child I could still pick up on no matter how hard they tried to keep it hidden. My father worked a night shift job of seven at night to seven in the morning about three to four days out of the week alternating weekends. Having a job like that can very time consuming when you have children because days that you have to work, you are sleep during the day and wake up in just enough time to get ready for work. But, during the times that he was off, he did NOTHING. Just sat on the couch all day long and watch television until he dosed off. The father daughter days came to a halt and he gave off the impression that he would rather be left alone to sleep. So, everyone would always be upstairs in their own rooms doing their own thing. Even my mother, to the point where you wouldn’t even think that they were married, just simply roommates. After about two years of this nonsense, my mother sat down with the both of us, my younger sister and I, and asked us how we would feel if they were to separate or if we wanted them to stay together. But, me and my sister had become so tired of her seeming like she wasn’t happy with him or that he was there, that we told that we didn’t need him. We could take care of everything on our own. It wasn’t like he was even contributing in the first place. And after this, the process began. August of that year came around and I remember the first day I saw boxes in their bedroom. It hurt me a little bit to know that my dad was leaving, but I had to remind myself it was the best thing for us. And, I would have to gladly admit that there was definitely a difference afterwards. We moved to another house in the same area, due to other reasons, which helped with the refresh as well. My home was definitely a happier place.

How does it apply to the community?

This issue of single-parent households and parenting is such an issue in today’s community due to the harmful risks that can take upon your children and their lives. Regardless of family structure, the quality of parenting is one of the best predictors of children’s emotional and social well-being. Many single parents, however, find it difficult to function effectively as parents. Compared with continuously married parents, they are less emotionally supportive of their children, have fewer rules, dispense harsher discipline, are more inconsistent in dispensing discipline, provide less supervision, and engage in more conflict with their children.46 Many of these deficits in parenting presumably result from struggling to make ends meet with limited financial resources and trying to raise children without the help of the other biological parent. Also, children living with single parents are exposed to more stressful experiences and circumstances than children living with married parents. Although scholars define stress in somewhat different ways, most assume that it occurs when external demands exceed people’s coping resources. This results in feelings of emotional distress, a reduced capacity to function in school, work, and family roles, and an increase in physiological indicators of arousal.

Why important to the field of parenting?

In conclusion, the study of this topic is rather important to the field of parenting due to its major contributions to all four parenting areas including; improving familial interactions, increasing psychological well-being, improving education, and increasing prosperity for the common good for society. Reducing the amount of single parents would in hand reduce and improve the familial interactions because children would have both of their parents significantly in their lives, rather than one more than the other. Single parenting can have detrimental effects of the psychological being of the child. The possible worrisome of acceptance and wantedness of the noncustodial parent, lowered self-esteem, and higher chance of depression. Which also comes in hand with a child’s school work and ethic of being stressed by other situations at home. And finally, increasing prosperity for the common good for society. According to research and studies, children from single parent homes are less likely to be disciplined and tend to be involved in more trouble and crime. Not only with discipline because there are children who are disciplined, but the less time thy are being looked after due to the parent having to work so much to make ends meet that they are barely home.

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The Impact of Single Parenting on a Child’s Behavior. (2018, September 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from
“The Impact of Single Parenting on a Child’s Behavior.” GradesFixer, 04 Sept. 2018,
The Impact of Single Parenting on a Child’s Behavior. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2021].
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