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Single-Parent Families

Challenges Of Single-parenting

Parenthood is challenging under the best of conditions. With one parent, the challenges are multiplied. Coping with childrearing for single parents becomes more difficult because of responsibility overload, when one parent makes all the decisions and provides for all of the family needs; task over-load, when the demands for work, housework, and parenting can be overwhelming for one person; and emotional overload, when the single parent must always be available to meet both their own and their children's emotional needs. Alone or in combination these result in problems for the single parent, including loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Support from friends and relatives can offset the effects of overload, with friends offering a buffer against loneliness and relatives giving more practical help (Gladow and Ray 1986). One difficulty is asking for help in a society that defines the family as an autonomous unit responsible for its own circumstances and well-being. However, few single parents can successfully raise children alone, despite the social expectation that noncustodial parents (usually the father) should only be responsible for supplemental financial support, while the custodial parent (usually the mother) takes on both parenting and economic roles (Goldscheider and Waite 1991). Some suggest that the ideal of an independent family head represents a Eurocentric view which is challenged by an African-American model of motherhood (Hill Collins 1994). In this model the importance of caring for and supporting children in the context of community development and social activism is emphasized. Children are cared for and raised by their own mothers (bloodmothers), other women in the community (othermothers), and relatives. African-American children are more likely to live with a grandmother than are white and Hispanic children.

Additional topics

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