As we were discussing in our last blog, single mothers have a hard line to tow. Beyond the daily childcare, housekeeping, and bread-winning, single mothers must face the inherent stigma of being “a single mother.” Society either pities or condemns single mothers just for caring for their children in the father’s absence. As an extension of the caution society handles single mothers with, society expresses concern for the children of single mothers.
The current question researchers ask is if single mothers are bad for society. We want researchers to be asking if a society who judges children based on their parents is good.
The Single Mother Effect
The predicament and situation American single mothers are in presents many pitfalls when raising children. Single mother households generally are financially insecure, which presents a myriad of resulting negative influences and factors.
The financial pressure a single mother experiences affects the location of the homestead and the amount of time she can spend with the child, factors which take their toll on children. If the only affordable housing is in a bad neighborhood, the child is more likely to be exposed to negative influences. If the mother is required to work whenever possible, her time with the child is diminished, thus furthering the child’s vulnerability to negative influences.
On top of this cause-effect conundrum, research has shown that children of single mothers are more likely to become single parents too. Many researchers attribute this perpetuated cycle to the fact that children learn by example; but children aren’t exactly starved for examples of nuclear family structures.
Curse of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
It’s true. Children learn by example, and they learn about life from their parents. This may seem like irrefutable proof that single mothers are detrimental to “the nuclear family,” and thus society. But before jumping to conclusions, consider all aspects of the situation.
Children have their parents as examples, but they also have the entire world of TV shows, movies, books, and more. Screen media has the greatest impact on society as a whole, so just flip on any TV show and you will see an example of at least one nuclear family or married couple. But children of single mothers aren’t making these characters their role models; they aren’t connecting with these characters. Why? Because marriage and a nuclear family is viewed as separate from their reality; because children of single mothers have been ingrained to believe they are inferior and unable (possibly undeserving) of a “normal” family. As a result, they reject the nuclear family because in their mind it isn’t a viable option for them.
No child follows in the exact path of their parents because we tell our children they can do anything, and be anything. But when children from single parent homes are met with concern, speculation, and wariness, the children feel separate and apart from other children with both parents. In essence, children of single mothers translate society’s condemnation of their mothers as condemnation of themselves. This leaves them feeling lesser-than and inferior to nuclear families.
What I am seeing, by experience and observation, is the creation of a caste system based on family structure. The caste system is perpetuated by “inferior children” self-fulfilling society’s prophecy. All of this, and more, is why we are trying to shift the focus off of the morality of single mothers, and onto the morality of a society that appraises families solely on their structures.
If you don’t buy the existence of an American family caste system, join us for the conclusion in Part 3.