The Effects of Single-Parent Homes on Children

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Children raised in a single-parent household can experience a variety of negative consequences. They may face economic hardships, emotional issues, obesity and poorer health outcomes. By being aware of these issues, you can protect yourself and your children more effectively against these effects.

Emotional Health and Behavior Issues

  • Children from single-parent households are at risk for social and emotional development issues, according to Columbia University Professor Jane Waldfogel in a review of research published as “Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing” in Future Child in 2011. These issues — including more trouble calming down, trouble relating to peers and behavioral issues such as aggression— can persist in the long term. Because Waldfogel also notes that stress and mental health problems in parents can make these issues worse, single parents must ensure that they take care of their psychological well-being and reduce stress where they can to reduce those issues in their children.


  • Children from single-parent households are more likely to be obese, according to Fatma Huffman,, of the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at Florida University in a study of children from 999 households published as “Parenthood — A Contributing Factor to Childhood Obesity” in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2010. Single parents looking to avoid this should limit television time, encourage physical activities and provide fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods whenever possible.

More Illness

  • Those in single-father families have less access to heath care and may be more vulnerable to health shocks than those in two-parent households, according to Harris and Harvard public policy researchers Lindsey Jeanne Leininger and Kathleen M Ziol-Guest, in a study of 62,193 children published as “Reexamining the Effects of Family Structure on Children's Access to Care: The Single-Father Family” in Health Services and Research in 2008. This may be because single fathers weigh the risks and benefits of health care differently from other families. Any single parent, father or mother, must ensure that their children have access to quality health care through their job or government programs to reduce negative effects on their children's health.

Economic Struggles

  • Single-mother families are more likely to be impoverished, according to Harris School of Public Policy researchers Ariel Kalil and Rebecca Ryan in a review of research published as “Mothers' Economic Conditions and Sources of Support in Fragile Families” in Future Child in 2010. Poverty leads to difficulties providing proper food and clothing, and may also limit childrens' access to better schools. The stress from these issues may also lead to more emotional and behavioral issues. Future policies should focus on initiatives to assist children living in these conditions in order to reduce these effects.



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