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Psychological Effects of a Single Parent Family

by
James Roland
James Roland is the editor of a monthly health publication that has approximately 75,000 subscribers in the United States and Canada. Previously, he worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, covering issues ranging from the environment and government to family matters and education. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.
Psychological Effects of a Single Parent Family
A father helping his daughter with her homework. Photo Credit Kraig Scarbinsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

Overview

Growing up in a single-parent family can have both positive and negative psychological effects on both you and your child. It's likely that children may feel happy or relieved when their parents split up, for example, and the house is no longer dominated by fighting, but there are also bound to be feelings of longing for a "normal" two-parent family life, notes the website KidsHealth. But recognizing these conflicting feelings and talking about them can help a great deal.

Greater Sense of Responsibility

A report from the University of Florida Extension Office notes that one of the major psychological effects of living in a single-parent family is a greater sense of responsibility. Children tend to assume responsibilities at home and learn to appreciate the sacrifices and effort made by the single parent with whom they live. Kids may at times resent having to grow up a little faster, which means it's especially important for their single parents to make sure their children still enjoy some of the typical parts of childhood, whether it's youth sports, summer camp, or the other fun parts of school and friends.

Reduced Conflict-Related Stress

In a Psychology Today blog from January 2009, author and social psychologist Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., points out that research indicates that kids fare better academically and socially in a single-parent home than in a two-parent home where there is a lot of conflict. Psychologically, children dealing with stress and uncertainty struggle in many aspects of their lives. If the fighting and arguing that can exist in an unhappy family can be eliminated through divorce or separation, children may experience an improved outlook.

Resentment

A child who lives with one parent may find many things to resent about his life. He may be angry with one or both parents for having to grow up in a single-parent home, and blame one or both for being the cause of a single-parent arrangement. He may also resent other kids who appear to have a happier, more secure home life, and resent the lack of attention he receives from his working parent. When these feelings start to appear, it's important for a child to speak out, particularly with individuals in the home, advises KidsHealth.

Improved Parent-Child Relationships

The University of Florida report echoes a common theme among single-parent research: the relationship between a single parent and a child can be one that is close and affectionate. A child in a single-parent home often sees the parent in a new light, and a single parent may be more likely to focus love and affection on a child when no spouse is involved. The parent and child are mutually dependent on each other, and in many cases this leads to a relationship that is more supportive and communicative.

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