: Over the years, people have brought forward hund
reds of proposals for the breakdown of society. One of the more popular, or perhaps notorious, depending on your point of view, has placed the blame on the rising predominance of
single parent households in society. I personally have trouble believing that one problem can be held responsible for
all of societys ills. However, I can definitely see how some people could feel so strongly about this.
Coming from a two-parent family, I cannot speak from experience about life in a single parent household; but I do
have friends and acquaintances that were brought up in single parent households. When I spent time with these
people and their families, it became quite clear to me that their way of life, though not necessarily better or worse
than mine, was certainly not the same. They were clearly missing certain aspects of life that I was accustomed to.
For instance, while growing up, I always had the experience of two adults on which I could draw in order to form
my own opinions, whereas the children who had grown up with only one parent were not afforded this luxury. I
always felt bad for them because I had something that they didnt have. Whenever I brought it up, they became very
defensive of the parent they lived with, and accused me of being shortsighted.
Financially, single parent households seem to be at a definite disadvantage compared to households with both
parents. There are many statistics showing how difficult it is to support a family on one income. Even the United
States department of Health and Human Services has declared, It is no longer feasible in America to enjoy a middle
class standard of living without the presence of two incomes (Burk, 1). This problem seems to be worsened by the
unfair system of transfer payments that has been implemented by our government. It becomes a case of two families
living on two incomes, rather than the traditional system of one family living on the same two incomes.
Recent efforts to criminalize non-payment of child support are ludicrous. It gives boys the message that when they
grow up and foolishly become fathers themselves, their lives will be destroyed by bitter wives, just like their fathers
before them had their lives ruined. Girls, on the other hand, get the impression that they can grow up and become
breeder mommies whose lives will be subsidized by government sanctioned child support. The net effect is bitter
children with a warped sense of values. In addition to marring the children, this also poses the question of how a
father would be able to pay child support from prison (Burk, 2).
Clearly, this is a very obtuse point of view. To blame all of this problem solely on either the mothers or the fathers
would be cruelly unfair. Obviously both parents should be held both financially and emotionally responsible for the
raising of a child, even if the child only lives with one of these parents. Some fair system must be designed so that a
child can be financially supported, without draining the assets of the non-custodial parent. I personally feel that a
child would be able to get just as much love and emotional nourishment from one parent as a child would get from
both. Though there may be more of a financial burden, I think that children of single parent families can live as full,
happy, and successful a life as their two-parent counterparts. Surely, there must be thousands of children from single
parent households who have made very successful lives for themselves despite their upbringings. Or, maybe their
single parent upbringing actually contr!
ibuted to their success. Perhaps some children thrive on the difficulties that they faced as children and are all the
better for having gone through it.
Statistically, however, far more social pathologies can be found among children from single parent households than
can be found among children from two parent households. There is a broad spectrum of these problems, obviously
rooted in single parenting: 63% of all youth suicides are committed by children from single parent households; 70%
of all teenage pregnancies occur in women from single parent families; 71% of all adolescent chemical and
substance abusers reign from households with only one parent present; 80% of all prison inmates grew up with only
one parent; 90% of all homeless and runaway children belong to families with only one parent (Burk 2). These
statistics point a very guilty finger in the direction of single parent families being to blame for the breakdown of
Though these are definitely strong statistics; in my opinion, they dont demonstrate anything but the fact that more
programs need to be in place to help children regardless of their parenting situation. Since none of these statistics
equals a full 100%, it is clear that children from two parent families, can also fall victim to these social pathologies.
This still leaves the question in the air of whether society as a whole is to blame for its downfall of if all problems
are rooted in single parenting practices.
There is substantial evidence to support the belief that single parent households place a severe financial burden on
society as a whole. Since single parents need to be home to take care of their children, many cannot or choose not to
work, and are forced to go on welfare to survive. With as many as five million families are on welfare at this time,
this program this costs the combined state and federal governments 25.2 billion dollars per year. That figure works
out to an average of approximately 156 dollars per family per year in federal and state taxes (Freeman, 1). However,
perhaps it is our responsibility to share some of this burden. As our esteemed First Lady put it “It takes a village to
raise a child.”
There is clearly a much tougher burden placed on single parents that on parents of an “textbook family.” This parent
becomes responsible not only for providing financially for their children, but also being the sole provider of
guidance, companionship, and moral support, all of which are vital to the healthy upbringing of a child. They have
no one to share this workload with, nor do they have anyone as a companion, on whom they can vent their
frustrations and joys. This must be a terrible burden for only one parent to handle alone. Perhaps this is contributing
to the fact that nearly 70% of child abuse is perpetrated by single parents (Burk, 1). In addition, there are certain
things that a child needs to learn from a person of one particular gender. Children of single parents often miss out on
However difficult this burden may be to shoulder, I believe that some people are born with certain inherent
characteristics that make them more or less able to handle this burden. Some people are perfectly happy raising
children by themselves, and if they can find a way to meet the needs of their children, I believe that they can make
perfectly good parents. Also, there are support groups for single parents, which can, in some ways, be a partial
substitute for the second parent. There are many cases in which a child that has grown up with both parents is less
successful in life than a similar child that had only one parent participate in their upbringing. As Vernellia Randall
writes in her “Open Letter on Single Parenting”, “I submit that it is not the structure of families that determine their
success, but whether the adult(s) in the family have a good education, make a decent income, and have good
parenting skills. Being a single parent is not the problem; it’s !
the lack of these ingredients that is the problem.”
So the question remains would society be better off in there were no single parent households? Perhaps it would be.
Or, maybe it wouldn’t be. Since there doesn’t seem to be any way to prove either case, the goal of society should be
to deal with the task at hand, which is to properly raise children, regardless of how many parents they live with.
Even if it were somehow proved that single parent families are hurting society, there is very little that could be done
to curb this trend. I personally don’t see what society has to gain by pointing fingers, but I do understand mankind’s
instinctual need to place blame, whether the target of the blame deserves it or not.
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