This week’s Sunday Times featured a great piece by Katie Roiphe (feminist turd-stirrer extraordinaire) called “In Defense of Single Motherhood.” You know I’m loving that.
Roiphe sums up the latest studies that suggest that single motherhood alone is not damaging to our kids. It’s the associated poverty (and to a lesser extent, the mother’s unstable relationships) that leads to these kids to be drunks and drop-outs. But here’s the best line:
“[Single mother expert Sara S.] McLanahan’s findings suggest that a two-parent, financially stable home with stress and conflict would be more destructive to children than a one-parent, financially stable home without stress and conflict.”
Which is what we’ve all been telling ourselves all along. Because we know it to be true. Moms who were in bad relationships with our exes know that our current homes are happier, healthier places without all the screaming, tension and general malaise. These are better places to raise our kids. Now there is a nice stack of scientific evidence to support that hunch. Roiphe goes on:
“Suffering is everywhere, and married parents, even happily married parents, raise screwed-up or alcoholic or lost children, just as single parents raise strong, healthy ones. What matters most, it should go without saying, is the kind of parent you are, not whom you sleep with, and even that matters only up to a point.”
Just to drive this home, I dug up some stats. Of the the 73.9 million kids under age 18 in the United States, 24.3 million, or 34%, live in single-parent families, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This is also their realities:
- 11%, of U.S. children live with at least one parent addicted to drugs or alcohol (Department of Health and Human Services)
- 22%, live in poverty (National Poverty Center)
- 20% live with an adult suffering from major depression (NIH)
- 10 to 20% are exposed to domestic violence (HHS)
Sure, single motherhood is few women’s idea of the ideal family life. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t also be a wonderful way to raise kids. And it also doesn’t mean that we can’t find other ways to mess up our kids.
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