Effects of Single Parenting on the Academic Achievement of Children dissertation

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Parenting on the Academic Achievement of Children

Single parenting effects

The term family refers to a group of at least two people who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption and who share resources, responsibility for decisions, values and goals, and have a commitment to one another over time (Nelson, 1992). Families provide for emotional, physical, and economic mutual aid to their members. However, the family-system in the United States has undergone some radical changes. From the late 1960's to the 1990's the proportion of U.S. children being raised in two-parent homes dropped significantly, from approximately 85% in 1968 to 69%, whereas the proportion of children living in single-parent homes nearly doubled (United States Department of Justice, 2011). Since the 1970's nearly a third of family households with children are maintained by a single parent and nine out of ten times that parent is a woman. Single-parent families with only one breadwinner are relatively more disadvantaged than two-parent families with either one or two breadwinners and of course the economic state of affairs of never-married mothers are significantly worse than those of divorced mothers (Spain & Bianchi, 1996). Single-parent families more commonly occur in urban environments, but can be found at every socioeconomic level. In terms of the effect on the child's education it has been long known that adolescents from a lower socioeconomic status are more likely to withdraw from high school before graduating and those that do graduate are less likely to attend college (Lambert, 1988).

Statement of the problem

Academic achievement is known as the extent to which a student has achieved their educational goals. Today there are a lot of children who come from single parent homes. With these children coming from single parent homes it's starting to affect them academically. Because they are the primary and frequently sole source of financial support for the family, single parents have less time to help children with homework, are less likely to use consistent discipline, and have less parental control, and all of these conditions may lead to lower academic achievement (Astone & McLanahan, 1991; Mulkey et al., 1992; Thiessen, 1997). Academic success is important because it is strongly linked to the positive outcomes we value for children. It is also necessary for us to find a way to provide children and parents from this type of home the help they need. So their children can reach their academic goals without a constant struggle

Research on the impact of single parenting to children has followed one of two models: the Family Deficit Model or the Risk and Protective Factor Model (Donahoo, 2003). Research has also shown that single parenting has an adverse effect on a child's development in the classroom. According to Mulkey et al. (1992), among children in single-parent families, those from mother-absent households earn lower science grades than children from father-absent homes; and no matter which parent is missing, children from single-parent families generally find it more difficult to connect with school. Students who regard their parents as warm, firm, and involved in their education earn better grades than their classmates with uninvolved parents (Deslandes, Royer & Turcottle, 1997).

Significance of the Problem

Many of the studies which focus on child outcomes as a result of growing up in single-parent or divorced home compared to "intact" households are primarily based on a "deficit model" that is directed by two generally held assumptions: First, this model assumes that a two-parent environment is necessary for the successful socialization of the child and second, it is assumed that separation/divorce is always traumatic to the child and that this leads to severe and enduring harmful effects on the child's adjustment ( Brubeck & Beer, 1992; Chase-Lansdale, Cherlin, & Kiernan, 1995). It is a long-held belief that an optimal child-rearing environment occurs within the context of a two-parent structure; however, there have been researchers that propose that well-adjusted and competent children can and do develop in a variety family contexts (Bornstein, 1995). Moreover, many of these deficit-based studies fail to investigate mediating or moderating variables such as parent and child characteristics or potential family processes that might be considered protective factors and could significantly contribute to outcomes (Hetherington & Stanley-Hagan, 1999).

In an early study researching the effects of divorce (single parenting) and non-divorced (two-parent) on student's grade point average, Brubeck and Beer (1992) studied 131 high school students. The student's overall GPA was taken directly from the school files. Results indicated that the students from divorced homes performed significantly lower than students from non-divorced families with overall GPAs of 2.35 and 2.93 respectively.

McLanahan and Booth (1991) concluded that children from mother-only single families when compared to children from two-parent families are more likely to have:

(a) poorer academic achievement with this relationship being stronger for boys than girls,

(b) higher absentee rates at school,

(c) higher dropout rates in middle school and in high school,

(d) lower earnings in young adulthood and are more likely to be poor,

(e) more marriages as teens,

(f) children early, both in and out of marriage,

(g) greater divorce rates,

(h) greater rates of delinquency, drug, and alcohol use.

There are quite a few studies that have documented the challenges that are faced by single parent families and the disadvantages of their children compared to children that are raised in two-parent families. There are some studies that find no difference between the two groups, but a majority of the research in this area indicates that children from single-parent families as a group perform more poorly on measures of cognitive functioning and standardized tests, earn lower overall GPAs, and complete fewer years of school when compared to children from two-parent families (e.g. see Kim, 2004; Mandara & Murray 2006; Sigle-Rushton & McLanahan 2004). As mentioned above, children from lower socioeconomic status families perform more poorly than those from middle and upper economic status families; however, the findings of lower academic achievement for children from single compared to those from two parent families remains even after controlling for economic and ethnic variables (e.g. see Kim, 2004; Mulkey, Crain, & Harrington, 1992; Teachman, 1987).

The changing number of single parent families is not unique to the United States. Hampden-Thompson and Suet-Ling (2005) reported very similar trends in the rise of single parent families in Europe over the same time span as well as similar findings related to the academic achievement of children from these families. Pong, Dronkers, and Hampden-Thompson (2003) compared the difference in academic achievement between children in single-parent and two-parent families across 11 countries. They found that the United States had a larger difference of academic achievement of between the family types than European children, but there was still a sizable gap in Europe as well. The authors surmised that European national policies have helped to offset the differences of single parenthood and that a more liberal United States welfare policy might lead to greater equality. Nonetheless this phenomenon appears to have global implications.

Looking at the Issue from a Systems Perspective.

Beginning in the 1980's certain researchers began to ask why children from single-parent families performed lower and achieved less academically than children from two-parent families. Most of the fruitful research in this area approached this dilemma from a systems perspective.

Milne, Myers, Rosenthal, and Ginsburg (1986) looked at two national data bases of students from two educational levels (elementary school and high school). They found higher parental expectations of the child, the number of books in the home, and family income to be significant predictors of academic achievement in children from single-parent families.

Teachman (1987), looking at data from the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972, discovered that there was a relationship between the number of educational resources in the home and academic achievement of the children. Many studies have found that the effects of living in single parent families differ by gender. For instance Krein and Beller (1988) found that the negative effects on academic achievement increase with the total time spent in a single parent family and that these effects are greater for boys. Building on earlier studies, Downey (1994) identified 11 key educationally related factors that were predictors of academic achievement for children from single parent families including the child having a place to study, their own room, a computer or typewriter, and having access to a daily newspaper, encyclopedia, magazines, greater than 50 books, an atlas, a dictionary, and a calculator. Kim (2004) investigated earlier notions that family income was important in predicting academic achievement and found that parental expectations, the size of the family, and the quality of the child's relationships were better related to academic success compared to family income.

By understanding these mediating and protective factors we can also infer what qualities of single-parent families may be related to poorer academic outcomes for children of these families. One factor appears to be access to reading materials such as books, newspapers, etc. Another factor appears to be the quality of…[continue]

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