Debate Paper: Should single individuals be allowed to adopt children?

Length: 872 words

NO. There are many conundrums, including legal uncertainties, question marks over suitability and the possibility of gender-based discrimination if single individual adoption is allowed.

Children need both parents for healthy psychological development. To successfully meet various socio-psychological developmental stages a child would ideally need both parents. Moreover, taking care of a child, especially in its early years is a strenuous effort and a couple is better disposed to share that responsibility. Moreover, identification with the same-sex parent is a key developmental milestone. (Samuels, 2012) There are also unanswered questions over the suitability of a single man in raising an adopted daughter, especially with respect to negotiating the biological and psychological upheavals during puberty. If we grant that only women can raise baby girls into maturity, then is it not discriminatory against men?

The other major problem with single individual adoption is the legality. Our social norms do not usually approve of childbirth outside wedlock. Consequently, laws have been devised to recognize parentage, in view of common disputes over inheritance of wealth, etc. It is also through the matrilineal social order that the social life of a child is organized. In fact, most of our cherished childhood memories are tied to our extended

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family, in the form of favourite uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, etc. In this context, the child would miss out on most such socializing opportunities if brought up by a single individual.

YES. With most children already growing up in single parent households, due to high divorce rates and changing attitudes toward marriage, such a set up is no longer the exception but the norm.

With divorce rates ever increasing (more than 60% in the United States), single parenting has become commonplace. It then begs the question why should single individuals be disqualified from adopting children when marriages are not forever? In modern societies, across class barriers, we see successful examples of single parentage. We also need to consider the reasons why marriages fall apart. In most failed marriages, apart from interpersonal incompatibility, the major reasons are irresponsibility or unethical conduct on part of one parent. (Gailey, 2010) For example, the father could be an incurable alcoholic, which had led to the failure of the marriage. Or, perhaps, the mother was infidel, breaching a fundamental trust between partners. In these situations isn’t the child better off being raised by the more ethical and responsible of parents. These are the considerations that a jury take into account before according custody of children after a divorce. One could look at single individual adoption as custody after divorce, but without the mess of an actual divorce. Isn’t it a better deal for the child, for it does not have to contend with the pain of separation from one parent as well as sharing the mourning of the custodian? Is it not better for the child if he/she inhabits a peaceful environment, devoid of parental discord and family dysfunction?

Perhaps the strongest reason in support of single individual adoption is the need for love for the child. There are large numbers of children – of varying ages – who are orphaned or abandoned due to various circumstances. The most likely reasons are teenage motherhood, poverty, taboo of extramarital childbirth, etc. These babies end up in foster care facilities – usually government or charity managed – which can only provide basic facilities. Any child would much rather grow up under the love and care of a single parent than the chaotic environment of orphanages. The strong interpersonal bond that a child forms with the parent cannot be replicated in foster care facilities or orphanages.


In the course of researching for this debate I came to understand several new dimensions to the issue. In other words, the question of adoption by a single individual cannot be answered in simple yes or no terms. There are plenty of qualifying conditions that should be brought to bear on the decision. The eligibility of the adult individual to cater to the emotional, social intellectual and educational needs of the child is of utmost importance. In the case of a older child, his/her adaptability to the cultural environment of the prospective parent should be taken into account.
Although laws have not caught up with increasing demand from single individuals, there is no reason why they should not be amended. Much of the arguments against single individual adoption is plain prejudice and misplaced apprehension. Once the basic precautions and qualifications are met the lack of legality is a flimsy reason to hold back a progressive social trend. If single individual adoption is too novel or radical and people are uncertain how it would work, then perhaps a system of periodic appraisals of the parent is warranted. (Gailey, 2010) The single parent would have to take up this additional responsibility as a further measure of love for the child.

I started the research with a slight favouritism toward allowing single individual adoption. By the end of this exercise my position is only fortified.

Works Cited

Gailey, Christine Ward. Blue-Ribbon Babies and Labors of Love: Race, Class, and Gender in U.S. Adoption Practice. Austin, TX: University of Texas, 2010.

Samuels, Shirley C. Ed. D. Ideal Adoption: A Comprehensive Guide to Forming an Adoptive Family. New York: Insight, 2012.

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