Monday, April 13, 2009

Single Parenting

Tracy Potter:

Single Parenting: Does it really have a negative effect on the child?

Throughout history single parenting has been said to have a negative impact on the child or children. It has been said that growing up with only one parent can affect a child’s education. Some studies show that children who grow up in a single parent household have a higher dropout rate than children that grow up with two parents. They believe that the children get worse grades and do not try as hard in school. However, there are other studies that show that the percentage of dropout rate for single parent children is very close to the percentage of children with two parents. There is a statistic that the overall dropout rate was 19 percent and that 13 percent of them were children from two parent households. There are also studies about the children being more likely to live in poverty causing them to live in poverty when they are adults. Living in a single parent household can have a lasting impact on how a child views parental roles and relationships. About 45 percent of children will go through their parent’s divorce which is said to cause their relationship issues. There is also the emotional factor. Some studies have been done showing that children who live with one parent have more emotional issues. On the other hand it is said that if a parent does a good job making a stable household with rules yet nurturing the child then there will not be a long term affects of the child. Considering about 30 percent of the households in America are single parent households it is very important to study this topic. In the article Growing Up With a Single Parent, there are many charts and questions asked about the parent and child that also have to do with single parents compared to married or step families. For example they talk about whether or not the child has TV rules, a bedtime or chores. The survey seems to show that single parents do in fact have similar percentages to the two parent households.

Discussion Question:

1. Single parenting has been seen as having a negative impact on children. Do you agree or disagree with this? Why or why not?


Caitlin Richelson:

Single Mothers on Welfare

There is a common misconception that single mothers on welfare are feeding off the system and sitting back collecting checks without trying to find employment or bettering their situations. There is another thought that welfare recipients are mostly black, urban dwellers without any education. Knocked up as a teenager or purposely having multiple children to receive more money from the state; these are thoughts that cross many minds. However this is not the case at all.

While every system has flaws, the majority of the single mothers receiving welfare benefits are very determined to better their lives and their children, most importantly. Most notably known as “welfare queens” it is completely unfair to group these women together and place the same negative stereotype. Andrew Hacker, author of The 'Welfare Queen': Challenging Stereotypes of Single Mothers in the U.S, states that “the nation contains millions of women who were once on welfare and who are now self-supporting. They simply needed time and financial help to get themselves together. Follow-up studies have shown that half of all recipients leave voluntarily before their third year. Many use their time on welfare to prepare themselves for work” (Hacker). These are the facts that are undisputable. Most women on welfare in fact do have plans for social mobility for their families.


The main reasons for single mothers going on welfare are that:

More women are being widowed

More women are getting divorced

More women are having kids out of wedlock

The chart below shows that there has been a steady decrease in welfare recipients of single mothered families since 1994. In 1972 71% of welfare families were single-mother families. In 2002 only 22% were single-mother families. And only 34% of families making below the federal poverty line were single-mother headed families. This says a lot about the determination and ability of single mothers to succeed and provide for their families. Since the beginning of AFDC single mothers have been pushing harder than ever to overturn the nasty stereotypes associated with welfare.

% Percent of total AFDC/TANF caseload that are African American; Chart 22 (34):

The chart above breaks down the welfare recipients based on race. The chart on the left shows the percentage of AFDC recipients that are African American. Despite the increase over the years of African American mothers receiving welfare, there is little different between white and black women receiving welfare over the years. And now currently they are at about equal as mentioned above.

Breaking down the stereotypes:

So exactly who is on welfare today? While there are a larger percentage of black and Hispanic mothers on welfare, there is an equal number of white women and black on welfare in this country. (Hacker) This is quite the contrast to the misconception of the single black mother. Hacker also states that, “almost 75% of AFDC households have only one or two children. Only 10% of such households have four or more children” (Hacker). The majority of welfare mothers are not pumping out babies in an effort to receive more benefits from the state and local agencies. Actually the opposite, single mothers on welfare understand the costs, especially after having one or two children. This prompts them to not have eight or ten children. When one begins to look at the actual numbers it becomes more difficult to point fingers and blame these women for their circumstances.

For the numbers of women who have been collecting their monthly welfare checks, 18.2% of welfare recipients have been on AFDC for less than seven months. Only “25% of welfare recipients have been receiving aid for 5 or more years, and fewer than 10% have been on AFDC for over a decade” (Hacker). These numbers are a far cry from the proclamations of the critics of welfare and TANF programs. They may say that welfare recipients are unmotivated and unwilling to do any real work. The numbers speak for themselves. What people also need to realize is that many of these women have been put into these circumstances against their will. Not all single mothers on welfare did this to themselves and many lead fairly successful lives before one wrong move or a father abandoning the family. It is difficult to pick out any one cause; however it is easy to not pass judgment. Educating oneself creates a less ignorant society that can hopefully become more tolerant and understanding of the struggling lives many of our dedicated mothers lead.

Discussion Question:

2. What are your personal views on single-mother families on the welfare system? Have you run into a woman in this situation and if so what was your reaction to it?


Hacker, A. (1992). Two nations: Black and white, separate, hostile, unequal. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Hacker, A. The 'Welfare Queen': Challenging Stereotypes of Single Mothers in the U.S.

Snyder, T. Welfare; History, Results and Reform, September 2004.

James Nutter:

Single Fatherhood

The challenges faced by all single parents is obvious, they have twice the work with seemingly half the time to accomplish it. In the case of single fathers, many specific issues arise. Biological differences between men and women can cause innate difficulties. Differences in gender norms cause difficulties for single fathers. And sexism causes a view that single fathers are less capable at parenting than other systems.

Biological Issues:

Fathers with children in infancy are incapable of breastfeeding; other options must be found for feeding children up until they begin eating solid food. Later in life, fathers of daughters going through puberty often face difficulties. This is due to the simple fact that most men have no second hand experience with that turning point in a girl’s life. Children sometimes are unable to identify with an opposite sex parent; the embarrassment that often comes from the changes that occur during puberty can cause an emotional separation between the child and the father if the father is unable to cope with this growing and changing experience.

Socialization Issues:

Sociologically the issues that arise are far more prominent; this is due to gender norms that everyone is socialized into from birth. The issues arise most prominently with fathers of younger daughters. Trey Ellis, a single father, describes his attempt to get his young daughter ready, “It was usually her mother or our weekday nanny who wrestled with Ava's hair, but I was slowly learning. In attempting a braid, I could only get through a turn or two before the hair rioted, so I'd just seal off the relatively controlled part with a barrette and let the rest poof out like fireworks” ( Though he finishes the account with his daughter being satisfied with his effort; simple differences such as this can add a lot of stress to a single father who is trying to be the best he can for his children. Similar issues can arise throughout the development of the child; everything from academics, to a child’s social life can be difficult for an opposite sex parent to support.

Sociological Issues:

Generally, men are viewed as less capable parents in our society. The ideas of the homemaker and breadwinner have yet to be completely abolished, leaving difficulty for single fathers because of a disbelief of ability to raise one’s children alone. This is even prevalent in custody battles between separating parents. As Tara Emmers-Sommer, David Rhea, Laura Triplett and Bell O'Neill explain in their article, “men who seek single-fatherhood must deal with the challenges aroused by judges’ or the court-systems’ view of single-fatherhood. Thus, men find themselves in a position of having to make a case for their adequacy and ability as the custodial parent” ( Further than that, in everyday life, people have the same attitude toward single fathers; being constantly showered with doubt about one’s ability as well can lead to difficulty and stress.

Many men have just as much of a drive to be the supportive parents their children require. As one father stated, “‘It was always something I knew, from the time I was a child’, Jeff says, ‘I knew I wanted to be a daddy’” ( Though because of the favorability of women in the court system, “Following divorce, only 15% of fathers receive the custody arrangements they had desired compared to over 2/3 of women obtaining the custody arrangement they had desired” ( When it comes down to it, the sex of the parent is unimportant. The love, knowledge of child rearing and dedication are what make a parent good or bad. Many single fathers are far more capable of raising a child than some couples who remain together and mothers who win custody simply out of being the mother; it is unfair that individuals who are dedicated and potentially better suited to parenting have to face so many challenges.

Discussion Question:

3. In your experience, do you feel that single fathers are less capable of raising children? Why do you think that it is the cultural norm to think in this way?

(Sources cited relevantly)

Devin Smith
Welfare “Reform” Under TANF: Problems for Single-Parent Families

In 1996, as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), the main cash welfare program that assisted single-parent families, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was replaced with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (Ozawa, Yoon, p. 239). TANF is a drastic departure from AFDC that preceded it, and its success in helping elevate poverty in those most as risk is unclear. Under the AFDC program, states were allowed, but not required, to offer job development and placement. There was no time limit on how long a family could receive benefits, and there was no obligation for recipients to find work or face penalties or loss of benefits. Recipients were allowed to pursue education and vocational training as a means to make themselves more employable. (Ozawa, Yoon, p. 239). In contrast, TANF is a “work first” program that sets a two-year limit on the amount of cash assistance a family can receive at one time without working and a limit of five years on the total amount of assistance a family can receive in a lifetime. (Ozawa, Yoon, p. 239). The purpose of TANF was to end dependency on government welfare programs and make people more self-sufficient. Although there are now fewer people in the welfare system, it is unclear if those that have stopped using welfare benefits are able to support themselves and their families and if current recipients will be able to in the future (Lens, p. 286).
Supporters of this program point to the dramatic decreases in welfare case loads, from 13.5 million in 1995, to 8.9 million in 1998, as proof of its success (Lens, p. 280). The implementation of the TANF program coincided with a period of economic prosperity and growth, were there were more jobs available and more opportunity for poor people to work. It is estimated that between 31-45 percent of the decline in welfare usage between 1994 and 1996 was due to economic expansion and increased job opportunities, and cannot be contributed to the success of TANF itself (Lens, p. 280). Additionally, many state and local welfare programs decreased case loads during this time by limiting the number of families that were given access to TANF programs. Over 30 states have adopted “diversion” programs, such as one-time cash assistance, or requirements to look for employment for a specific period of time before they are eligible for benefits. In some states, as many as 40-84 percent of potential recipients were turned away because of these diversionary programs (Lens, p. 281). The decline in welfare case loads immediately after the implementation of TANF cannot be contributed solely to the success of this program.
The best indicator of success for this program is whether former recipients are now self-sufficient. Government data suggests that between 50-65% percent of those that leave TANF have jobs when they leave the program, or get jobs shortly afterwards (Ozawa, Yoon, p. 240). However, the average wage rate for these jobs is meager, between $5.50 and $7.00 an hour, and most former recipients remained below the poverty line, even when working more than 30 hours a week (Lens, p. 281). Most former recipients were financially better off when on welfare because many of the jobs they could get were temporary or seasonal, paid wages too low to support their families on, and either offered no health insurance benefits, or required employee premiums and co-payments that made them unaffordable (Anderson, Halter, Gryslak, p. 188-9). The result of this is that as many as 19-30% of former recipients return to the welfare system for assistance because they cannot reasonably make ends meet (Lens, p. 282).
It is the “work-first” strategy at the core of the TANF program that leads to individuals and families cycling on and off welfare instead of achieving self-sufficiency because of the claim that working, not education and training, is the best route to independence. As of 2002, states were required to have 50% of all single-parent families working at least 30 hours a week or risk loosing their TANF benefits, and going to school or vocational training did not count towards work-related activities (Lens, p. 283). Education and skill training is necessary to obtain higher paying, more stable jobs. Single-parents on welfare that had a high school diploma had a 39% lower chance of returning to welfare than those that did not (Anderson, Halter, Gryzlak, p. 189). With nearly 50% of all welfare recipients lacking a high school diploma, it is clear that education and vocational job training is needed to help families out of poverty. However, under the TANF program, welfare offices only offer assistance with “job readiness training” such as writing resumes and practicing interview techniques, and do not provide the training in skills for higher paying jobs (Lens, p. 283). The results of this approach are that poor single parents on welfare will remain poor because the jobs available to them are low paying, offer few benefits and opportunities for advancement (Canican, Meyer, Wu, p. 201).
Most recipients of welfare are single parents (and of those, most are single mothers), who must juggle being both the primary nurturers and providers for their families. TANF “work first” programs pressure recipients to leave TANF as soon as possible, even when they cannot find child care or transportation to their jobs, making it extremely difficult to balance their home and work lives (Ozawa, Yoon, p. 247). Lack of affordable child care is one of the most difficult barriers to self-sufficiency because the high cost forces many people to start using welfare again or to use unsafe, unregulated childcare (Anderson, Anthony, Gryzlak, p. 189).
The purpose of TANF was to foster independence and self-sufficiency by limiting the amount of government assistance to poor families and encouraging them to work. This program has gained support from the public at large, many who believe that permanent income support for single-parent families has encouraged dependence on “the system”, the creation of families out of wedlock and family break-ups (Ozawa, Yoon, p. 239). However, those that leave TANF programs are likely to return because lack of education and skills makes it difficult to find jobs that pay enough to support their families. Those that do not return to TANF programs are at a high risk for poverty, hunger and homelessness, especially those that are no longer eligible for benefits (Lens, p. 286-7). The dramatic reforms to welfare that were supposed to improve the lives of poor single-parent families have actually made it more difficult for them to find good jobs that would sustain their independence.

Question: Should TANF programs do more to help single-parents obtain higher education or vocational training? If so, why? If not, than who, if anyone, should be responsible for helping them?


Anderson, S, Halter, A. Gryzlak, B. (2004) Difficulties after Leaving TANF: Inner-City Women Talk About Reason for Returning to Welfare. Social Work. 49(2), p. 184-194.

Cancian, M., Meyer, D., Wu, C. (2005) After the Revolution: Welffare Patterns since TANF Implementation. Social Work Research. 29(4), p. 199-214.

Lens, V. (2002). TANF: What Went Wrong and What to Do Next. Social Work. 47(3), p. 279-290.

Ozawa, M, Yoon, H. (2005) “Leavers” from TANF and AFDC: How do they Fare Economically? Social Work. 50(3), p. 239-249.


  1. I didn't realize that half of the second graph is not visible for some reason when I previewed the post... if you right click and view image you can see the whole thing. Sorry for the inconvenience!

  2. Drawing on the video and discussion from class today i just thought I would add an additional question related to single fatherhood. Do you think that the issue of masculinity and the "tough guise" spoken of in the video add to the difficulties of single fatherhood? (whether in relation to the social inability to emotionally attach, or other reason)

  3. In response to question 3, I believe that single fathers can be just as good a parent as a single mother. There is a lot of stigma around this concept because men used to be, and still are, considered the workers and not the caregivers. Women, throughout history, have been the ones taking care of the children but it is time to break out of this social norm. There is no reason why men cannot do just as good of a job as women when it comes to raising children. They can be just as caring and sensitive and loving but society needs to let them. The movie we watched in class shows just how badly the concept of the "tough guise" can negatively effect men. If there wasn't this need to be tough, strong and powerful or to be viewed as such, I believe that the single father would be far more accepted and appreciated.

    -Grace Maskell

  4. To answer Caitlin's Question:

    I do not agree with the view that single mother's on welfare are taking advantage of the system. On the contrary, I don't think that there is enough government funding and social policies to support women in these situations. The money and food stamps provided by welfare are often not enough for a family to get by on. But if a women with minimal skills and education were to obtain full time work, she would likely still not make enough to meet the basic needs of her family. Furthermore, if a mother is working she must find adequate child care, but vouchers for day care centers are usually only provided to families who make impoverished wages; and the more they make the less funding is provided, so their whole pay check ends up going to day care. For example, I had a coworker who dropped out of college her sophomore year when she got pregnant. She moved in with her boyfriend, and they qualified for a full time child care voucher as they both worked minimum wage jobs. But when her boyfriend got a second job, they lost their son's voucher. My coworker had to quit because the cost of child care outweighed the amount of her take home pay. So instead of working their way to a better life as they had planned, this young family was deprived of upward social mobility because of the inadequate structure of the welfare system. This is just an example of how the welfare system is vicous cycle and does not provide ample opportunity for families to work their way out of poverty.

    -Julie Conton

  5. I think that single parents can be great parents. I believe that there will be hardships for both parent and child but that is not so say that they can't be a good parent. I believe i that the way the parent talks about being a single parent and the reasons they are one make a big difference. Another aspect which may effect the child is if the child's parent becomes a single parent from a couple or if they were and they get a partner. I also realized that there there are some couples where one parent interacts with the child and has a relationship with them and the other one does not, in some ways that is like the parent is a single parent.
    just some of my thoughts- Justine

  6. Question 1-

    I can argue both sides of this question...

    Single parents are more likely to have less resources available for their children, in many cases contributing to the poverty cycle as mentioned. Also in cases of divorce, tensions between the parents almost always cause adjustment problems that can lead to social or emotional issues. I also think, to an extent, that it is important to have both strong female and male role models in a child's life and living as a single parent can often make it hard to provide that for your child.

    On the other side however in the case of many single parents, they have left their partner due to toxic situations that would/could have an even greater negative effect on the children had the parents not separated.


  7. Response to Question #1:

    I agree with Rhyanna’s response to this question. Like so many other issues that we’ve discussed in class and on our blog, this is not a black and white issue. In some cases single parenting can certainly negatively influence children. Single parents, particularly single mothers, have a greater chance of experiencing poverty. Living in poverty typically has a host of destructive consequences, such as poor quality education, health care, and housing. These consequences may negatively affect all areas of children’s development, as well as their life chances and ability to break the cycle of poverty. In addition to lack of money, single parents, especially those of many children, may have less time to spend with each child. Furthermore, the high stress that frequently accompanies single parenting may be detrimental to the quality of parent-child interactions. This stress may also lead parents to develop mental health issues, which often have a negative impact on their children.

    On the other hand, as Rhyanna mentions, single parenting may benefit some children because staying in a two-parent household where there is discord may have even greater detrimental effects on the child. For example, lacking a male role model is most likely better for a child than having a male role model who is abusive. Therefore, single parenting may or may not have negative consequences on children depending on the family’s circumstances.

    -Amy Diamond

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  9. In response to the question from class on April 13th, I believe that the male stereotypes in America do have an influence on fatherhood. There is a stigma of what gender roles need to be played out by the men in our lives, especially fathers. To be a single father and struggeling to raise children and keep but this idea of a "tough guise" can be ehausting in almsot every aspect of life. Men are not supposed to be caring, nurturing or show emotion, yet this seems to be the opposite of the ideals of parenthood. To be a parent, whether in a dual parent household or single, you must be nurturing towards your children and always put them first. Many men often get emotional at the birth of their child, yet this does not follow within the guidelines of the "tough guise." Is the emotion supposed to be hidden or is it then acceptable to change the gender roles that are given to men? I feel that once someone is a father it is often allowed for them to show emotion and display the typical female gender roles in reference to their children and their best interest but not in other areas of life.

    -Meredith Gagnon

  10. I think overall fathers are viewed as not as capable of being a good parent as mothers are. I think this has a lot to do with our socialization of boys to not be nurturers and that it is a feminine trait. When they are socialized to think that it is a negative thing then they don't want to be as involved in their children's lives in the same way as mothers are. Also when the courts in previous years have almost always given full custody to the mother then it sends a message that mothers are the only ones capable of taking care of children. The fact that we still don't fully think fathers are as good of parents as mothers shows that we are still stuck in the same stereotypes of femininity and masculinity. I think we're moving forward and seeing dads as an integral part of the family when it comes to children, but dads as single parents I think is still very foreign to us.

  11. In response to Meredith's response:
    "I feel that once someone is a father it is often allowed for them to show emotion and display..."
    I think in some ways this is true; but more on a personal, rather than social level. I think when men become fathers, many realize that the expectations of the "tough guise" are insignificant. Though many still feel the same expectations from their friends; especially if they are one of the first to become a father amongst their peers. so many times in the media and in life I have seen men given a hard time for being good parents. Luckily there are a lot of strong people who are able to brush it off as a joke (which it most often is meant to be). Though there are a lot of men who don't have the strength of character that some have; and in compensating they continue to put on a 'strong', 'manly', but in reality cold or impersonal face (unfortunately in front of their children, who need to be nurtured, not impressed).

  12. I think that it single parenting can be more difficult and be more challenging than parenting with two parents. I think that single parents can be very successful and do a great job in raising children. I think that it depends on the circumstances of the parent. For example if the single parents are, a single teen mother who does not have a job and is kicked out of her house. This is clearly not a good situation and this baby will be at a disadvantage coming into the world. However, in other cases some single parents may be even more capable of providing a supportive home for a child than families with two parents. For example if a woman had never married because she went to graduate school and focused on her career and she never had time to date but wanted to have a child on her own she could provide for her child just as adequately as any other family. As long as the single parent can provide their child with shelter, food and adequately support them financially, then it does not make a difference whether there is one parent or two both families could be equally supportive of a child. At first, I thought that single parents would not be as available for their children emotionally because they would probably be working and their child would have to go to after school etc. In today's economy though so many families with two parents have both parents working that I do not believe there would be a difference between the availability of single parents and two parent families. I think that as long as the single parent can provide the basic needs of the child financially and emotionally and are dedicated to loving and supporting their child then single-family parents can be equally as supportive as dual parent families and sometimes even more successful. Just because there are two parents does not mean these parents are always available. There are many families where one parent is not there emotionally or is always working so the family functions as a one-parent family anyways. I do know that for me I have both a mother and father and they have always been married. For me it was nice to have both parents because emotionally it was nice to have both of their opinions and support. Sometimes I would talk to my father about issues or sometimes my mother. Sometimes if one parent was more emotionally available at the moment, I could talk to the other parent, which is not possible in single parent family homes. In addition, my parents would discuss parenting techniques together and support each other so it was easier for them as well to have support while parenting me. There are many benefits to having a partner while raising a child but it is also possible to have an equally happy family in a single-family parent home. Thanks, Taylor

  13. Honestly, I don't think that single parent households are any different than two parent households when it comes to the child's success. I understand that the child may have more resources or supervision with two parents, in which to guide them to success, but I think that it is more the nature of the parenting that ensures that someone does well.

  14. that last post was by Jennifer Nichols...sorry i always forget to put my name!!