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Children's Success in Single Parent Households

Written by Suzanne Leigh

Children raised in single-parent households are no more likely than those from two-parent homes to fail at school or develop behavioral problems.

Children raised by single mothers are no more likely to have learning difficulties or behavioral problems than those raised in two-parent households. Contrary to theories that children raised by a single parent are prone to rebellious behavior and academic failure, family configuration was found to have little effect on a child's future, according to the study published in the British journal New Scientist.

Developmental psychologist Henry Ricciuti of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., tested 1,700 children between 6 and 8 years old whose mothers participated in a long-term, multi-ethnic study. He found that the children raised by single moms did just as well on vocabulary, reading and math tests as those from two-parent families, and they were no more likely to have personality problems.

Although single-parent families were twice as likely to live in poverty as two-parent ones, Ricciuti found that the woman's level of education and general ability were more significant factors in determining a child's academic potential.
 
"It's a very encouraging study," said M.L. Fraser, a cognitive-developmental psychologist at California's San Jose State University. "It shows us that parents who stay together in a warring relationship are not necessarily serving the best interests of their children," she said.
 
"However, parents do have an obligation to provide a consistent and stable environment for their children, even if that environment means kids spend one week at their mom's home and the other week at their dad's home," she said.
 
An environment where parents and parents' partners are transitory figures, where rules are enforced one day and overlooked the next, is not consistent with raising well-adjusted children who perform well at school, Fraser noted.
 
"However, some learning disorders, such as dyslexia, are neurological conditions that will occur regardless of a child's environment. But a poor environment can certainly exacerbate symptoms," she added.
 
In the United States, almost one child in three is born into a home where the mother is not living with a male partner.

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