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The Effects of Single-Mother Families on Children in an African-American Household

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The Effects of Single-Mother Families on Children in an African-American Household By LMU Student Alexis Lester(Business major)

African-American mothers and children living in poverty have been the main focus of numerous psychological studies. Since the mid 1960s many books and articles along with research have been published about African-American or Black families in America. Well over a thousand publications have been added to the research data about African-American families. Many Black families only have one parent in the household. Parents might have gotten a divorce or maybe have not even gotten married. “Nearly half, 48% to be exact, of all Black families are maintained by women with no spouse present and 75% of Black children born in the last two decades are likely to live some portion of their childhood with only their mothers” (Brody, 2001). It is very rare and fortunate for Black children to grow up in their household with both of their parents. The family is where everything starts, the core of your being, from learning basic life skills, like how to survive and adapt to life, to learning values and character. It impacts the development of individuals and predicts human behavior. In addition it also shapes personality, beliefs, and attitudes by the traditions and habits of the parent’s discernment and understandings. As of 2010 African-American families are trapped in several situations that make them vulnerable to society. The Black family deals with a variety of societal pressures from social to economic problems. They are victims of education, fertility, household income, history of welfare, and ghetto environments. Many scholars have laid the foundation for a strength based and culturally relative analysis of the Black family. As a result, there is a significant amount of descriptive and theoretical literature and research. The literature explores some of the emerging and over looked topics. This is a review of literature, which considers the effects of single mother families on children growing up in society.
Before we examine the effects, we must first decide how best to define these families. The criteria for a definition of the black family will vary in accordance with the definitions used by researchers. Brendesha M. Tynes, author of Handbook of African-American Psychology, defined the Black family as, “an institution that contains historical traditions that set them apart as alternative formations that are not identical to or pathological variants of European American, middle class family structures” (Tynes, 2009). The African-American family is described as a rich cultured family with many characteristics. The characteristics include: extended in size, have close non-blood ‘family members’ who become apart of the family, supportive family patterns, flexible family boundaries, and flexible roles in child rearing. These characteristics of Black family functioning make up an important structure for examining African American families from a cultural perspective. A journalist named Lawrence Redd says, “that understanding the strengths of the family has great potential for helping to solve many of the problems that they may incur” (Redd, 1988).
“Married couple families has sharply declined over the past couple decades such that single-parenthood has become a minority lifestyle” (Tynes, 2009). Psychological studies have shown that women who came from a single-parent household are most likely to become a single parent early before marriage. Which means the cycle of single-parenthood will be continued in the next generation. To be more specific lets look in the city of Chicago, which was once called the “Promise Land” for the blacks in the great migration. A study was done on current marital status of mothers living in Chicago’s high poverty neighborhoods between African Americans, Whites, and Hispanics. “For African Americans 48% have never been married, 23% is currently married, 12% are separated, and 14% are divorced. For Whites 20% have never been married, 55% are currently married, 4% are separated, and 18% are divorced. For Hispanics 21% have never been married, 57% are currently married, 10% are separated, and 9% are divorced” (Franklin, 1995). To compare all three ethnicities and races the African American women have the highest rates of never been married. “The results in this analysis indicate that never been married African American mothers living in areas of concentrated poverty have great potential for perpetuating the growth of an urban ‘underclass’ in American cities” (Franklin, 1995). African American women are relying more on welfare as their primary means of income and financial support. It is not clear whether welfare is a substitute for marriage or just the only available alternative for means of support. Since single mothers are increasingly the head of the households of African American families, in a result, they experience more persistent poverty and welfare usage. But why is that? Scholars say that the declining employment prospects for less educated Black men are the result of the changes in the economy and ultimately the society. As the economy, that is in a recession right now, have led to high unemployment rates for African American men and women are not attracted to unemployed men as marriage partners.
Well let’s focus on the actual effects single motherhood have on children living in these households. Numerous studies show that children who grew up in single parent families have more negative outcomes than those with both parents. Fatherhood involvement may be a particular important factor to take into to consideration when explaining the variation in the effects of single-mother families on male and female adolescents. Research shows that the impact of growing up in a single-parent home has found daughters, of the single parent, establishing a family at the age of 16. Tests and observations have consistently concluded and found that single parenting makes children more aggressive and rebellious and are associated with negative behaviors. Children from single-parent homes are most likely to drop out of school, to have lower-income in their adulthood, receive welfare, experience parenthood, drug abuse, or violence. Studies have shown that children from single parent households do less well at school. “Even when they have the same academic abilities, children in single-parent families are three times more likely to drop out of high school than children from two-parent families” (Thiessen, 1997). This is explained by saying that the single parent does not have the resources to fully support their child in school or to provide educational opportunities out of school. Since single parents are the sole source of financial support for the family, they have less time to help children with homework, less likely to use consistent discipline, and have less parental control, which leads to lower academic achievement. It has been proven that, children from single-mother families earn lower science grades. No matter which parent is missing, children from single-parent families generally find it more difficult to connect with school. Family income also influences parent support and involvement in education and other factors related to school achievements. “Students who regard their parents as warm, firm, and involved in their education earn better grades than their classmates with uninvolved parents” (Thiessen, 1997).
Psychological and Social problems always incur when dealing with children with in single-mother households. According to the Office for National Statistics, children from single-parent families are twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems as those living with married parents. Single-mothers often isolate themselves from everyone, in a result, so does the child. This will have a very negative influence in the growing stages of the child, making him/her an introvert. As the mother cannot spend much time with the child because she plays two roles in family, the child feels left out and desperately seeks attention. “The family unit is fundamental to a child’s sense of self and so the fracturing of that unit has a profound effect on them” (Thiessen, 1997).
Adolescents in single-mother families are more likely to engage in problem and risky behaviors that could often led to smoking, drinking, delinquency, violence, unsafe sexual activity, and suicide attempts compared to adolescents who live in a two-parent household. The reason that these children tend to gravitate towards these behaviors are because of a lack of supervision and they do not receive the guidance or attention that they need in order to deal with their feelings.
Gender in family structure will play a big role of the effects of single-mother families because the interconnection with the daughter causing the son to engage in behavioral problems. When in a single-mother family the daughter would show less risky behavior and delinquency than a son because of the gender involvement. The son is not going to connect better or gravitate to his mother than father instead there is a disconnection between the two. The effectiveness of single-mother families in raising boys depends on the role and involvement the father takes in his life. Probably the biggest scar that is left on a child is not having a healthy and strong emotional bond with the parent because there is one less parent around to interact with. Numerous studies have directed towards the importance of the parent-child relationships. The involvement of fathers is especially important to children.
There have been increasing concerns with ‘deadbeat fathers’ who do not take care of their children, but most of this concern is focused on the economic contributions of nonresident fathers to their children. The presence of a father cannot be replaced with the single-mother. The father’s involvement within the family reduces the risks of defiant behavior produced by adolescents because those fathers give advice, provide support, and are another disciplinary and companionship figure. Plus they can teach their sons how to be a man and/or stress to their daughters the importance of respect and that she should be receiving it from a man. The fact of the matter is that these fathers are not there for their child’s upbringing, which results in some issues with in the single parent homes. Maybe one of the reasons why a father is not there for his child is because Black males’ income and employment are lower among minorities and individuals of lower socio-economic status. Or maybe the reason does not have to do with society; Black men just do not want to take responsibilities for their own actions. Even though research have not shown one clear concise answer on why these fathers are not involved with their kids there has to be a deeper meaning than society and irresponsibility. Men who actively engage with their children can provide numerous positive outcomes for the child.
Black children are at higher risk of developing socioeconomic problems because they have borne a disproportionate share of the burden of poverty and economic decline in America. Through Vonnie C. McLoyd’s study, “poverty and economic loss diminish the capacity for supportive, consistent, and involving parenting; a major mediator of the link between economic hardships and parenting behavior is psychological distress deriving from an excess of negative life events, undesirable chronic conditions and the absence and disruption of marital bonds; economic loss and poverty affect children indirectly through their impact on the parent’s behavior toward the child and child father relationships under the conditions of economic hardship depend on the quality of relations between the mother and father” (McLoyd, 1990). Single motherhood, which is a socio-economic problem, will pass on through generation. Psychological studies say if a child comes from a single parent home, that child is most likely to end up the same way, the family impacts children heavily. Within single motherhood it brings socio-economic problems throughout society. One of which is poverty and the usage of welfare, which means the family does not get the same privileges or respect as other non-single families.
The single-parent family condition borders the line of disaster. With many children and low socio-economic status, these women survive basically because their human urge or instinct to live seeks whatever that is possible between their associates, the things they posses, and the events that take place in their daily frustrations. African American women must initiate interaction between themselves, their children, and community because their male presence has died. “Studies have shown that more years of formal education are linked with more responsive and vigilant parenting and with more supportive and harmonious parent-child relationships in African American families” (Brody, 2006). It is a difficult situation for any child to be raised with one parent, but surprisingly, not an impossible one anymore. Society has accepted the facts and has stopped looking at single motherhood as abnormal. The characteristics, traditions, and resilience make the Black family so unique and able to adapt and survive no matter what obstacle is thrown upon it.
Par. #11 Looking through various types of research and articles some questions have arisen for future research: How do we account for the increased risk of problem behaviors when sons, in the single-mother families, are not able to maintain contact with an involved non-resident father? How can we stop this cycle of poverty and single motherhood? What can we do as a society? What can we do as a community? What can we do as victims of this disaster?


1 Comment

  1. United&Unlimited says:

    Awesome piece! Thank you for adding the stats too such a troublesome epidemic, providing insight on the years of studies, and laying results on the table for all to see. The percentage of single mother families is so high that it is now common, and you did a great job on explaining how this being common is crippling to our communities.
    Its clear that this has been discussed countless times over the years, but yet we are still left with similar questions to the ones you posed. are not able to maintain contact with an involved non-resident father? How can we stop this cycle of poverty and single motherhood? What can we do as a society?etc.. I feel that the first step is making it clear that even though it is common this is not okay. Once that is clear across the board we can start moving in the right direction.

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