The Effects of Single Parenting on American Society

Single-parent families in America have significantly increased in the last two decades, according to the American Psychological Association 1. Some factors that contribute to single-parent families include divorce, incarceration, military service and death. Parents in single-parent families encounter numerous challenges as they have to work harder to meet the responsibilities of the absent parent. Single parenting may lead to consequences like child abuse, poor educational outcomes, poverty and poor social well-being.

Child Abuse

The Child Welfare Information Gateway reports that children raised in single-parent families have a higher risk of suffering abuse and neglect than those in two-parent families. Single parents may abuse their children because of the stress they undergo to meet the family’s needs. Children who live with single mothers have a higher risk of experiencing abuse than those who live with single fathers. This is because of the “strong positive relationship between the child and the father” irrespective of whether he stays with the child or not, says the CWIG.


Children in single-parent families face various difficulties, which lead to poor education outcomes. Sociologist Sara McLanahan, writing for "The American Prospect" states that children who grow up in single-parent families have higher school dropout rates compared to those from two-parent families 2. Children from single-parent families have higher chances of performing poorly in academics when compared to those from two-parent families, irrespective of whether the single parent is a mother or a father.


Single-parent households are more likely to have less income as compared to households with two adult earners. In a 2005 study appearing in “The Future of Children,” Adam Thomas, Ph.D., and Isabel Sawhill state that single-parent families may benefit from incentives like tax cuts and child support, but they still earn less than two-parent families. Financial stability ensures that the parent provides for a child’s basic needs like food, education and clothing. The study concluded that children's poverty levels are more likely to decline if single mothers would remarry.

Social Well-Being

Children who grow up in households where both parents are present are less likely to experience social problems, sociologist Paul Amato, Ph.D., states in a 2005 study appearing in “The Future of Children.” Children who grow up in two-parent families receive effective parenting as they have the emotional support of both parents. Family structure is one of the factors that contribute to social problems; therefore, two-parent families play a significant role in promoting the social well-being of the society.