Demographers believe that fifty percent of all children will live with a single mom before their 18th birthday due to the rise in single motherhood.
This number doesn’t differentiate women who are single mothers by circumstance and those who choose to be raise children on their own (e.g., Shonda Rhimes or as discussed in Jane Mattes book “Single Mothers by Choice”).
Research suggests that children with two parents fare better in many ways — in school, in their own relationships — than children with only one at home. And those implications are unevenly distributed in society.
In 1965 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an American sociologist, controversially argued that the high rate of families headed by single mothers would greatly hinder progress of blacks toward economic and political equality. Was he correct?
A Black child today is much more likely to be born to a single mom than a White child, or the child of an educated mom (i.e. a mom with a college degree). Currently approximately 25% of Black children compared to 5% of White children lived in families headed by an unmarried mother. These percentages increased quickly over the next two decades, reaching about 50% of Blacks and 15% Whites by the early 1980s. Then the rate of increase among Blacks slowed. Fifty-four percent of Black children were being raised by an unmarried mother in the early 1990s; about 50 percent were in 2003. Today, more than 70% of all Black children are born to an unmarried mom. The level has remained near 50% since 2003.
Children growing up with a single mother are exposed to more family instability and complexity (such as feelings of abandonment, insecurity, behavior problems, decreased high school completion, and decreased college enrollment) than those raised by both of their parents. The definition of a single mother does not differentiate unmarried women living with a partner from single women. But the research is speaking to the lack of two or more caregivers in the home (including aunts, uncles, grandparents) and the extra demands placed on the single parent. In 1960, 95% of single mothers had been married at some point in their lives due to divorce or widowhood. By 2013, only half of all single mothers had ever been married.
One could argue that being unmarried is not equal to being uninvolved. Many adults are separated from each other for very good reason. Perhaps they were not compatible, were meant to be friends and took the relationship to the next level, or are actually toxic together. Fathers can still be active participants in their children’s lives if they choose to be or allowed to be. We probably all know a man that says his ex won’t let him see his kids. The twitter repost demonstrates the prevalent view.
A recent review of 45 quasi-experimental studies concluded that growing up apart from one’s father reduces educational attainment, mental health, labor market performance, and family formation (National Parents Organization, 2014). In addition, most studies find larger effects on boys than on girls.
Information cited in this blog came from the following sources:
Badger, E. (2014, December 18). The unbelievable rise of single motherhood in America over the last 50 years. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/12/18/the-unbelievable-rise-of-single-motherhood-in-america-over-the-last-50-years/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fb8f34db2a05
Cadet, D. (2014). 5 lies we should stop telling about Black fathers. Huffington Post Black Voices. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/13/black-fatherhood-statistics_n_5491980.html
McLanahan, S. & Jencks, C. (2015). Was Moynihan right? What happens to children of unmarried mothers? Education Next. http://educationnext.org/was-moynihan-right/
Moynihan, D. P. (1965). The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, Washington, D.C., Office of Policy Planning and Research, U.S. Department of Labor.
National Parents Organization. https://www.nationalparentsorganization.org/blog/22098-the-latest-on-single-parenthood-from-sara-mclanahan