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Children in Single Parent Homes and Emotional Problems

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2003

Updated: Sunday, August 10, 2008 00:08

Recent studies performed by Swedish researchers provide strong evidence concerning children who are raised by single parents. The studies were reported in the medical journal, "The Lancet," and show that these children are more likely to suffer from mental and emotional problems than children raised in two-parent homes.

Children raised by single parents have been found to suffer from serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions later in life. Other results from these studies showed girls were three times more likely to become drug addicts if they lived with a sole parent, and boys were four times more likely.

The studies indicate that the major explanation could be financial hardship. The poorer children seem to do worse than children who were more financially stable.

The studies used Swedish national registries, which cover the entire population to perform their research. About 66,000 were living with only one parent while 921,257 lived with both parents. The children were ages 6 to 18 at the start of the study.

From this study, scientists concluded that children with single parents were twice as likely as the others to develop a psychiatric illness such as severe depression or schizophrenia. In addition, the researchers believed that children in single-parent homes were more prone to contemplating suicide and developing addictions to substances.

However, other studies have proven that financial hardship is not the only explanation. Social isolation of single parents might be a stress factor that they transmit to children. Another explanation may be that the parents do not have the time needed to support and supervise their children. This can have a negative impact on the child.

Hailey Parker, a doctor and psychiatrist at Howard University Hospital agrees with this explanation. He says that single parents are more likely to spend less time with their child because of work and the stress of taking care of the child alone. As a result, the child may feel neglected and find comfort in other things.

Freshman film major, Allen Kee, says he disagrees with the study because he was raised by a single parent and never felt neglected.

"My mother was always there for me and she never showed any signs of her having problems." However, this is not the case for some other children raised by single parents.

A student at Howard University who wished to remain anonymous said being raised by a single mom caused a lot of problems in his life.

"We didn't have a lot of money and my mom worked two jobs. Still, ends didn't meet so I had to make my own money, illegally."

Lee Ming, a doctor at Georgetown University, says the scenario of children raised in single-parent homes and doing illegal activity is one that happens quite often. "It deals with financial hardship and even sometimes the child feeling neglected. These feelings can cause a child to go astray from what is right. Although this is not always the case it does happen quite often."

The rates of single parent families have doubled in the last 15 years according to the Office of National Statistics. Lone parents now account for over a quarter of all families. The statistics reflect changes in society's attitudes to divorce, separation, and births outside marriage. It has been proven by Swedish experts that children raised by a sole parent experience more mental hardships than those raised by both parents. However, researches say this does not mean that every child raised in a single-parent family will experience these mental disorders. It only means they are more likely than those children raised in two-parent homes.

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