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The Big Answer


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Single-Parent Families

an article by our site

Single-parent families are all families not headed by a married couple—many include dependent children.

Of those households that were headed by someone under the age of 45, more than 80 percent included children under age 18 in 1990. But after age 45, most single-parent families included a relative other than a dependent child.

The percentage of single-father-headed households with kids increased 27% in the decade from 2000 to 2010
The percentage of single-father-headed households with kids increased 27% in the decade from 2000 to 2010

The 2010 census data shows that the percentage of single-father-headed households with kids increased 27% in the decade from 2000 to 2010. That is still a small minority of households overall – only 8% of the total, and the percentage of single-mother-headed households rose as well, but only slightly. There will still be many times as many of these types of families headed by women. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

From 2000 to 2010, the real increase in family households was in single-parent families, up by 22 percent
From 2000 to 2010, the real increase in family households was in single-parent families, up by 22 percent

“From 2000 to 2010, the real increase in family households was in single-parent families, up by 22 percent, and multi-generational households [much of which is due to immigration], up by 30 percent. Increasing social acceptance of singles adopting children as well as single parents resulting from divorce or having children but never married may account for some of the increase in single-parent families.” (Source: Where Did Raymond Barone and Cliff Huxtable Go?, by Brent Roderick, 2013, Esri Insider.)

Single-parent families:
Percent change 1980-1990: 34.4%
Percent change 1990-2000: 16.5%
Percent change 2000-2010: 22%



single parent families
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)


The trend toward single-parent families is probably the most important of the recent family trends that have affected kids and teens because the kids in such families have bad life outcomes at double or triple the rate of kids in married, two-parent families. While in 1960 a mere 9 percent of all kids lived in single-parent families, by 2010 the percentage had risen to 25. (Source: Social Indicators of Marital Health and Well-Being, National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, W. Bradford Wilcox, ed.)

In the online research website Questia, Stephanie Coontz and Patrick Fagan make this insightful point:

"Q: Are single-parent families a major cause of social dysfunction? Yes: Broken families are strongly correlated with a range of social pathologies. Is the single-parent family a symptom or a cause of social disintegration in the United States? Paradoxical as it may sound, it is both. Obviously, people living in single-parent families do not have bad intentions, but they are trapped by their own or their parents' actions in a form of community that harms children. The evidence is all around us: dangerous, failing schools in America's inner cities, crime-plagued neighborhoods, crowded prisons and high rates of drug addiction." See The Index Of Leading Cultural Indicators.

The evidence of the results of single parenting is all around us: dangerous, failing schools in America's inner cities, crime-plagued neighborhoods, crowded prisons and high rates of drug addiction
The evidence of the results of single parenting is all around us: dangerous, failing schools in America's inner cities, crime-plagued neighborhoods, crowded prisons and high rates of drug addiction

(Stephanie Coontz is the celebrated author of these important books: The Way We Really Are, The Way We Never Were, and A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s.)

"Why Do Single-Parent Families Put Children at Risk? Researchers have several theories to explain why children growing up with single parents have an elevated risk of experiencing cognitive, social, and emotional problems. Most refer either to the economic and parental resources available to children or to the stressful events and circumstances to which these children must adapt." (Source: Journal Issue: Marriage and Child Wellbeing, The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Well-Being of the Next Generation, by Paul R. Amato )