How do children brought up in single-parent families compare to their two-parent counterparts?

How do children brought up in single-parent families compare with their two parent counterparts? [Photo: Getty]

Families come in all different shapes and sizes and researchers are often trying to assess the impact of growing up in different households on children, particularly how children from two-parent and single-parent families fare.

Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal that around one in five children are growing up in a lone-parent family.

As reported by the BBC, two recent studies in the UK and the US have revealed that a difference is beginning to emerge between how well children fare in single-parent families.

But the results are somewhat contrasting.

In the US study, by Princeton University, researchers recruited five thousand children and their parents in large American cities, mostly in families where the parents were not married.

Taking economic disadvantage into account, the study found that a pattern of instability had started to emerge in those children brought up with a sole parent.

Those whose parents had divorced were more likely to fail to progress at school and children who were in what the study authors characterised as a “fragile family”, where parents were cohabiting or there was a lone parent, were twice as likely not to graduate from high school. 

Though researchers accept the study has limitations, in that it is not an experiment but based on real life, they suggest the results could serve to encourage more support to be offered to single parent families.

Recent studies have revealed contrasting results [Photo: Getty]

Interestingly, a British study had some quite different results, revealing that being raised in single-parent households doesn’t negatively impact on children’s wellbeing.

What’s more, children growing up with a lone-parent actually fared better than those in two-parent households.

The study, by the University of Sheffield, collated data from 27,834 households between 2009 and 2017 via the UK Household Longitudinal Study, Understanding Society.

Participants were asked to rate their wellbeing in three different categories; “life satisfaction”, “feelings about their family” and the “quality of relationships with peers”.

Those who were raised in single-parent households reported better satisfaction in all three categories.

Additionally those growing up with a lone-parent had more positive feelings about their family and tended to report less problematic relationships with their peers.

The report states: “In all cases, the differences between those who have never lived in single parent families, and those who have either experienced or always lived in single-parent families is statistically significant, meaning the difference we observe is unlikely to have occurred by chance.”

Study authors believe the results should help society to challenge common political and public assumptions surrounding single parents and their families.

They are now calling for this renewed look into family life to be reflected into the policy-making.

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