What Are the Different Behavioral Effects for Children of Single Parents Versus Intact Families?

Splitting up can be a difficult decision for a married couple, especially if they have children. Children are often too young to understand that it’s best for their mom and dad to live separately. There are many ways a child’s behavior can be affected by growing up with a single parent. Children who come from single-parent families often show negative behavior in comparison to intact families.

  1. Social Behavior

    • Children who come from single-parent families exhibit significantly different social behavior than those from intact families. According to the Texas Youth Commission, children with one parent are at greater risk of having impulsive, aggressive and anti-social behavior problems. This can lead to delinquency and possible criminal behavior. A single-parent may not have the time to balance her responsibilities with supervising her child, according to author and clinical nurse Vicky R. Bowden. Female adolescents living with one parent are more likely to engage in sexual activity, according to the Institute for American Values. This means a higher chance of becoming a teen mom. Children of single-parents may also find it more difficult to form and maintain social relationships than children from intact families. A child from an intact family has a positive example of a relationship and has this basis to form solid relationships. The child of a single-parent does not have such an example.

    School Behavior

    • A child's behavior at school can be dramatically affected when there is one less parent in the home. According to the Institute for American Values, children from single-parent families skip school, cut class and are late almost 30 percent more than children from intact families. With only one parent in the home, a child may have less supervision when it comes to staying out of trouble. A single parent has to juggle work, home, finances and bringing up a child on his own, which can be overwhelming. According to FathersForLife.org, 71 percent of high school dropouts come from homes without fathers.

    Illegal Behavior

    • The Texas Youth Commission states that children who come from single-parent families have a greater risk of engaging in illegal activity. This can include using illegal drugs and underage drinking. If a child’s whereabouts are not monitored by parents, there is a greater risk of illegal behavior. A single parent who works full-time may not have the time to monitor her child. In a two-parent home, there is a greater likelihood that a child’s behavior will be supervised. According to the Institute for American Values, a male teenager is more likely to be arrested if he lives in a fatherless home. Children age 14 and over who come from an intact family are less likely to be arrested than those from a single-parent home.

    Psychological Disorders

    • According to the Mayo Clinic, teenagers can develop a number of psychological disorders due to a lack of supervision, a lack of positive parent involvement and divorce. They are more likely to develop oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children are three times less likely to develop mental disorders, such as ODD and ADHD, if they come from intact families. The risk of developing these disorders can also be high for children who come from a two-parent family where the marriage is troubled.

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