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Parenting Alone

Single, Divorced or Widowed Parents (or Grandparents)

Get It Before You Need It: Make sure that you always have access to (or notarized copies of) all the important paperwork: divorce decrees (prior divorces, too; these are required for some procedures), insurance, financial, banking, powers of attorney, wills, guardianship, birth certificates, prenuptial agreements, military paperwork, and any others. These will make all the difference to you in the event of a divorce, legal battle, or sudden illness or death. Don’t wait until you need it to go looking for it.

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Deliberate Single Parenthood: We know there are many causes of single-parent homes, and we do not in any way minimize the tough road single parents walk. We are sympathetic to those who become single parents through death, illness or disability, divorce, separation, rape, incest or perhaps errors in judgment — and we seek to give those parents as much support as we can. Many children in single-parent homes grow up to be well-adjusted and happy, and a tip of the hat should be given to single parents who make the sacrifices necessary to make that happen. We also would rather see a child live in a loving home with one parent — than be stuck in foster care or in a situation that’s absent adequate love and attention.

But we worry about what seems to be a new and disturbing trend: deliberate single parenthood. We think it important to note that children from single-parent homes are statistically at greater risk (often at MUCH greater risk) for abuse, neglect, truancy, teen pregnancy, suicide, substance abuse, eating disorders, poverty, violence, or other problems. Single parents must work extra hard to keep their children healthy and safe, and they are at much greater risk for problems themselves. Like this research or not, it does make sense. One pair of hands can only do so much, and there are only 24 hours in a day.

Therefore, we ask that people who want to become a single parent think long and hard before making this lifelong decision. We encourage them to examine the research, talk to single-parent friends, visit single-parent chat rooms and support groups, and answer honestly the critical questions of why they want to do it and whether they’re emotionally and physically capable.

Much of the extensive research we’ve seen on children and families does not support these common perceptions:

bullet that wealthy single-parent homes don’t have the same problems as poor single-parent homes;
bullet that the majority of single-parent homes are minority homes;
bullet that white single-parent homes don’t have the same problems as minority single-parent homes;
bullet that fathers are dispensable or don’t matter;
bullet that a mother can do anything for a child that a father can;
bullet that placing a child in daycare early (at 6 weeks) has no long-term negative effect on a child;
bullet that if children are in good-quality daycare, they are fine without their parents;
bullet that if children are brought up with an alternative living arrangement, they will accept it as normal. See some of the research and statistics on single-parent homes.

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Single or Divorced Parents:

bullet Safer Child’s Helpful Links on Divorce
bullet Count-Me-In For Women’s Economic Independence – nonprofit organization that makes small-business loans to women
bullet Fathering Magazine – help and support for fathers (including single fathers)
bullet Mothers And More – support for women who interrupt careers to stay home with children
bullet Parents Without Partners
bullet Parents Anonymous, Inc.
bullet Children’s Rights Council – promotes meaningful contact with both parents, regardless of marital status
bullet AARP (Grandparents page)
bullet U.S. Department of Education – suggestions for how educators can reach out to single parents
bullet Safer Child Families in Crisis pages
bullet Safer Child Communication Page
bullet What Were You Taught as a Child? – did you learn unhealthy lessons that interfere with your ability to parent and/or to be happy?
bullet Our Thoughts on What Children Need to Grow Up Happy and Confident
bullet Warning Signs of an Abusive Partner
bullet Safer Child Financial Assistance page
bullet Safer Child Discipline Page
bullet Safer Child’s What Makes for a Great Spouse?

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Research on Single Parent Homes: (We will be adding to this section. Please check back with us.)

“Social science research is almost never conclusive. There are always methodological difficulties and stones left unturned. Yet in three decades of work as a social scientist, I know of few other bodies of data in which the weight of evidence is so decisively on one side of the issue: on the whole, for children, two-parent families are preferable to single-parent and stepfamilies.”  (David Popenoe, professor of sociology at Rutgers University)

bullet Center for the Study of Parental Acceptance and Rejection – conducts research on issues surrounding parental acceptance and rejection
bullet Promoting Responsible Fatherhood – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
bullet A study published in the March 2002, issue of the Journal of Family Psychology (published by the American Psychological Association) says that children in joint custody situations (living and interacting with both parents) appear to reflect fewer behavior and emotional difficulties than do children who live and interact with just one parent. The findings don’t mean that children in single custody situations are going to be psychologically damaged, the authors said, just that they won’t do as well as children who interact regularly with both parents.
bullet National Fatherhood Initiative – (not part of U.S. DHHS’s program)
bullet June 7, 1995 Testimony of Michael Tanner, Director of Health and Welfare Studies, The Cato Institute, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Youth Violence – discusses the consequences of welfare families (and the effects of single-parent homes) on children
bullet Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps by Sarah McLanahan (professor of sociology and public affairs, Princeton University,) and Gary Sandefur (professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) – based on four national surveys and more than a decade of research, this October 1994 book argues that children living in a single-parent family will not fare as well as children who live with both parents.
bullet Throwaway Dads: The Myths and Barriers That Keep Men from Being the Fathers They Want to Be
bullet Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem
bullet “Life Without Father: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society”, by David Popenoe, professor of sociology at Rutgers University – March 1999
bullet U.S. Census Bureau – (do a search under “c” for children) – offers some startling statistics on the current status of American children
bullet Safer Child Fatherhood Page

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One Comment

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