2 minute read

Single-Parent Families

Mother-only And Father-only Families

Single-parent families are generally categorized by the sex of the custodial parent (mother-only or father-only families). Mother-only families include widows, divorced and separated women, and never-married mothers. In the case of divorce, mothers are usually given custody in the United States and other developed countries. In Italy, in 1997, for example, 90 percent of children whose parents divorced went into the custody of their mothers. Since the vast majority of single parents are mothers, most of the research focuses on female-headed families. However, regardless of sex, single parents share similar problems and challenges (Grief 1985).

In the past, father-only families formed as a result of widowhood, desertion by the mother, or wives refusing custody. There has been a 25 percent increase in the number of single fathers in the United States—from 1.7 to 2.1 million—from 1995 to 1998. In 1997, Canadian fathers received sole custody in 11 percent of the cases and joint custody in 28 percent. The increase in father-only families is due, in part, to the efforts of fathers to obtain custody of their children. Although most fathers in the United States do not request custody during divorce proceedings, about one-half to two-thirds of those who do are awarded custody. In 1995 2.5 million U.S. children resided with a single father, an increase from 1 percent of children in 1970 to 4 percent. Single fathers in the United States are twice as common in white families (16%) as compared with black families (8%). Although single fathers are slightly better educated than single mothers, on average, both groups are less likely to be college graduates and more likely to have dropped out of high school than married parents.

There are an estimated one million noncustodial mothers in the United States, with 75 percent voluntarily giving up custody. The primary reasons women give up custody include: inadequate financial resources, child's preference for living with the father, difficulty in controlling the children, threats of legal custody battles, and physical or emotional problems experienced by the mother. Almost all (97%) noncustodial mothers actively maintain a relationship with their children (Herrerias 1995).

Fathers increase their chances of getting custody when they pay child support, when the children are older, and when the oldest child is male. Single fathers report that they feel competent as primary parents and, in taking responsibility for the activities of caregiving usually assigned to mothers, are able to develop intimate and affectionate relationships with their children (Risman 1986). Other factors supporting their transition into A single father in Texas takes his son for a check-up. Single fathers report that they feel competent as primary caregivers and are able to develop affectionate relationships with their children. A/P WIDE WORLD PHOTOS primary parenthood include financial security, prior involvement in housework and child care during the marriage, satisfaction with child-care arrangements, and a shared sense of responsibility for the marital breakup (Greif 1985).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesSingle-Parent Families - Demographic Trends, Mother-only And Father-only Families, Challenges Of Single-parenting