Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

Human development is incredibly unlikely to occur within an entirely context free situation but rather within a particular ecological setting consisting of the family, a school, a neighbourhood and a community, the social context of our world exists within a sequence of layers surrounding the individual. The purpose of this assignment is to critically analyse the research evidence which claims children raised in one parent families are at an increased risk of engaging in anti-social behaviour in comparison to those raised with two biological parents. The first section of this assignment will focus on research claiming children raised in one parent families are at an increased risk of engaging in anti-social behaviour. This critical analysis is then further developed in the following section which will explore more complex family influences which may increase the likelihood that a young person may engage in anti-social behaviour and consider other wider socio cultural contexts in which the risk may also be increased.Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

Anti-social behaviour can be defined as any intimidating, destructive or aggressive activity that has the potential to damage or destroy another individual’s quality of life such as verbal abuse, criminal damage, vandalism, graffiti, racial abuse, harassment, smoking or drinking alcohol while under age, substance misuse and engaging in threatening behaviour (Crime and Disorder Act, 1998). However anti-social behaviour is a social construction whereby behaviours ranging from verbal abuse to murder can still in essence be considered anti-social making it a difficult concept to define in the first instance. In addition, the aforementioned behaviours may be commonly engaged in by young people regardless of family structure and parenting style. Therefore we cannot make the erroneous assumption that a child in a one parent family will engage in anti-social behaviours simply because they lack the presence of an additional adult that exists within a two parent family. Thus illustrating that research focussing solely on the simplistic and reductionist variable, the fact the child resided with their unmarried mother (i.e. divorced or never married) as a high risk factor for engagement in anti-social activities provides an inaccurate picture.Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

Single parenting can be defined as a situation whereby only one of the two individuals which were responsible for the child’s conception is solely responsible for its upbringing (Eshleman, 1981). Again this definition is over simplistic and fails provide a clear description of the varied routes into the one parent family such as divorce, bereavement, out of wedlock births, teenage parents and separation of cohabitant parents.Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

The role of one-parent families in explaining the causality of anti-social behaviour in young people has been a central and highly debated topic for many years with some arguing that it has become a significant problem in society. For example, Lady Scott (1985) stated “I think that the normal family is an influence for good in society and that one-parent families are bad news. Since not many single parents can both earn a living and give children the love and care they need, society has to support them; the children suffer through lacking one parent”(Quoted in Fletcher, 1988). However Lady Scott assumes that a “normal” family consists of two parents in this statement but what happens when this social construction consisting of two parents includes one who is a paedophile, suffers from heroin addiction or is alcoholic? It may be that the family structure considered as “normal” within our society consists of two parents but a counter argument does exist when we consider the other societies such as Native Americans where the women raise the children within that society collectively. Therefore the assumption has not been made that because these children are raised in a different family structure that they are at an increased risk of engaging in antisocial behaviour. The poignant question of whether children raised in a non-typical, non-traditional family, including one-parent families, are at a significantly increased risk of engaging in anti-social behaviours has been the focus of various research (see Flewelling & Bauman, 1990; Hoffman, 2002; Rankin & Kern, 1994). A crucial reason for the rapid expansion of research specifically examining the interconnection between non-traditional families and anti-social behaviours has occurred due to the increase of single parent families in recent years. Most research examining the association have produced similar results which is indicative that being brought up in a one-parent family poses as a high risk factor for anti-social behaviours as the following research demonstrates.Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

Dornbusch et al (1985) conducted a study to investigate whether adolescent engagement in anti-social behaviour varied in regards to the family structure which they reside, even after controlling for likely confounds such as social class, parental education and race. They hypothesized that one parent households within their national sample would differ significantly from two parent households in their abilities to control adolescents within the household. They also hypothesized that the presence of an additional adult within a one parent family will significantly increase control over the adolescent’s decision making thus reducing various forms of anti-social or deviant behaviour. A nationwide random sample was drawn from the population which was then stratified to be representative of the target population. Extensive data was then collected with regards to each adolescent. Information regarding health history and behaviour was gathered from the parent by a trained interviewer. A separate interview with the adolescent was also conducted whereby questions were asked with regards to health history and behavioural attitudes, values and beliefs. A psychical examination was also conducted by a physician. Data was also collected from school officials with regards to school reports. Results showed significant and directional results in regards to both hypotheses. Research such as this is indicative that one parent families have significantly less control over their children, and that the lower level of control can be attributed to their children’s increased engagement in anti-social behaviour.Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

However numerous limitations can be highlighted within this research. Firstly the results cannot be generalized to the larger population as the research has not attempted to include children who have not engaged in anti-social behaviours therefore biasing the sample as there was no control group in the sample. Also self reports gathered from adolescents during interviews may have resulted in participant effects thus potentially lacking in validity and acting as a confounding variable. This research could also be criticised for its use of western culture as the sample was taken from a wider target population only in the U.S therefore the research cannot be generalized to other cultures. Steinburg (1987) also suggested a potentially damming limitation when he highlighted that Dornubush’s argument that just the sheer presence of an additional adult may help to control adolescent’s deviant behaviour, only their findings concerning one parent families and extended families actually supported this notion therefore the authors concluding statement (see Dornbusch et al, 1985) is deceiving and should be treated with caution. Bronfenbrenner (1986) would also argue that although the family is a primary context vital for child development it does not exist purely in isolation but this primary context is subsumed within other contexts.Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

Although positive correlations have been uncovered in pre existing research, recent research investigating the effects of one parent families on antisocial behaviour has been incredibly limited instead focusing on the family processes which were likely to increase a young persons risk for engagement in antisocial behaviour when weakened. This focus shift resulted in a wide array of research with varied results because the direct relationship between one parent families and its effects were no longer directly being investigated (Anderson, 2002). A sufficient amount of research focussed on parent-child interaction which is considered a central variable in the investigation of the aetiology of anti-social behaviour. These areas were typically categorised into three main research areas appropriate methods of discipline, the warmth of parent-child interactions and poor supervision and monitoring of activities (Loeber & Dishion, 1983).Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample


Baumrind (1971, 1989, 1991) became a major influence in the development of categorical parenting typologies with her suggestion that there are two significant dimensions which are crucial in the understanding of individual variances in parenting style (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). The first is parental warmth which relates to the level of acceptance and responsiveness provided by the parent as opposed to the second dimension of parental control which relates to the level of demand that is transmitted onto the child by the parent. These complex dimensions of warmth and control were then further developed into four different parenting styles. The first being the authoritative parenting style which is a commonly characterized by a firm sense of control in the wider context of a warm, loving and supportive relationship. In contrast the authoritarian parenting style which is characterized by an extremely firm control in the wider context of a cold, rejecting and demanding relationship. Thirdly permissive parenting style can be characterized as low levels of control in the wider context of a warm, loving and supportive relationship. Lastly Un-involved parenting can also be referred to as neglectful or disengaged parenting due to very low levels of warmth and control.Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

In addition to this the child-parent attachment may be weakened if faced with an ineffective and potentially damaging parenting style. The core of Bowlby’s attachment theory stated that all infants will attach to their mother or primary care carer if this individual is available to regularly interact with them (Shaw & Bell, 1993). According to Bowlby parental nurturing is critical for children as it provides a secure base from which they can explore the world around this: this base is also considered crucial for a healthy transition into healthy adulthood. In addition, Bowlby’s primary attachment theory suggested the role of the second parent was as a support structure to the primary caregiver rather than an additional care giver to the child. This is then suggestive that two parents are better than one, not due to increased emotional attachment and support for the child but because there is additional emotional and economic support offered to parent who has adopted the parenting role (Dowd, 1997).Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

One reasonable thing to suggest here is that although this particular variable could be applied to various family structures it may be more prevalent within a one parent family due to higher levels of resource deprivation (time to nurture the child, energy to parent effectively and economic resources) ultimately leading to the fallacious assumption that one-parent families have fewer resources thus resulting in diminished socialization and social control (Eitle, 2006). For example, a lone parent going through a divorce has to cope with the separation leading to additional stress therefore problems may occur with diminished parental responsiveness, involvement, affection, increased irritability and parental punitiveness (Hetherington et al, 1982). However it is essential to recollect that these factors all exist within the primary micro-system in regards to child development. Therefore it is imperative to remember that other secondary micro-systems in the wider socio-cultural context also play a role in regards to young people’s engagement in anti-social behaviour. Are young people who engage in deviant activities being “anti-social” or are they just growing up and looking for autonomy from their parents in the years between biological maturation and access to mature adult responsibilities? According to theorists such as Moffitt’s Developmental Taxonomy in regards to adolescence limited offenders an adolescents desire to impress fellow peers is at the heart of most anti-social behaviour that occurs in this developmental time period (Monohan et al, 2009).Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

In conclusion to this assignment there are a myriad of factors which may influence whether or not a young person is at risk of engaging in anti-social behaviour of which there is a substantial lack of empirical evidence to support the notion that one parent families are a substantial risk factor in isolation. All research evidence found has provided some correlational evidence to suggest that one parent families when considered in a socio cultural context may contribute towards the explanation of the causality of anti-social behaviour in young people. However, there has been virtually no research evidence which has demonstrated a direct causal link between one parent families and anti-social behaviour in recent years. Therefore although a massive amount of research has contributed towards the attempted underpinning in regards to the aetiology of antisocial behaviour in young people none have been successful in establishing direct causality. Lastly it has been difficult to pinpoint purely developmental theories in regards to family influence as this is a social construct thus illustrating further than any internal developmental within any individual occurs within an external social context therefore theories such as Social Control Theory (Hirschi, 1969) and the Social Interactional perspective could play a more active role in explaining the causality of anti-social behaviour in one parent families. Children Raised by a Single Parent Essay Sample

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