Families in today's world can take many traditional and non-traditional forms. In some cases, the nuclear family consists of two heterosexual parents and no more than two or three children. This type of family became the norm during the years after World War II. In this type of family, gender roles tend to be clearly delineated, with the father earning money and the mother staying home and caring for the home and children. Increasingly, as the economy became worse, double-income families became the norm, with both parents working to earn an income. As women became more self-sufficient, some have chosen to remain single in favor of building a career rather than starting a family. The divorce rate has also increased as a result of the ability of women to live their own lives and earn their own income. In addition, the legalization of gay marriage in many states have resulted in same-sex parents, where children are raised either by two fathers or by two mothers. In particular, the single-parent family has gained some research attention with particular focus on the effect of being raised by only one parent on children and the importance of the role of the father in children's lives. Particularly, the role of the father has enjoyed increasing research attention. Although fathers have traditionally been relatively absent from the lives of their young children, and especially in the case of daughters, this parental role has been increasingly recognized as increasingly important in the lives of both sons and daughters. On the other hand, it is also recognized that single-parent families can be very effective and nurturing environments for children, especially where marriages were troubled and stormy before ending in divorce.
Today, most researchers agree that child rearing outcomes depend not solely on the presence of biological parents, but also on the quality of care that they provide (Stephens, 2007). The author gives the example of fathers who display high levels of antisocial behavior, whose behavior as such has resulted in conduct problems I the children who shared their lives and interacted with them on a regular basis. This supports the point that father involvement is not always desirable in all cases.
Stephens (2007) also points out that the underlying reasons for high or low levels of paternal involvement need to be investigated and understood. There are many background issues and concerns that influence a father's presence or absence from the home and the lives of his children. Unemployed fathers, for example, have a lot of time to spend with their children, but their social status as father and head of the household recognizes them only as "good" fathers if they can provide for their families. This creates a sense of worthlessness in such a father, even though he is able to play the role of present father in his family context.
Rather than mere family structure or physical presence or absence, therefore, the father's role in the family depends on many different contexts, including the process within the particular family, behavioral issues, family interactions, and the quality of the relationships within the family.
When a father or mother is absent, for whatever reason, from a family, there are several disadvantages. The remaining parent has nobody to help with parenting duties, for example; there is a loss of economic income or advantages; social isolation occurs, along with potential disapproval; there is a sense of abandonment and psychological distress; and conflict can occur between the parents. All these effects can result in difficulty for the single-parent family that remains.
The single-parent family is therefore not always optimal for children, particularly when one of the parents had just left. In additional to economic suffering, such families may also suffer emotionally. The remaining parent, for example, may be experiencing psychological distress, which can affect her relationship with the children that remain. Although the divorce that resulted in this situation may have been desirable in terms of a toxic marriage, it is nonetheless also not desirable for the family that remains to suffer.
Hence, one might conclude that either a two-parent or single-parent family may have many challenges, depending upon the relationship dynamics within that family, as well as the inner psychological make-up of family members.
On the other hand, it is also possible that the single-parent family can be significantly successful. If financial stability is achieved within such a family, there is no reason why such a family cannot be successful in preparing children for their lives as adults. With a psychologically stable parent, it is entirely possible that a single-parent family can be as effective as a more traditional two-parent family. However, it is also necessary to recognize that financial and emotional issues may need therapeutic attention, particularly during the period just after a divorce. In such families, the missing parent can be an even more effective in the lives of his or her children than when the marriage was in trouble. Single parents, with effective therapy and/or communication, can learn to become good friends and model this kind of behavior to their children.
Hence, there are both advantages and disadvantages involved with single families. One significant advantage of a single-parent home is that children develop an early sense of responsibility (Northern Territory Government, n.d.). Not having another parental partner, the single parent may share some of the responsibilities with the children, including decision-making regarding important family matters such as holiday destinations, what needs to be bought for the home, and so on.
On the other hand, single-parent households with very young children can place a significant amount of stress on the parent who remains. Parents of young children need breaks and someone to share the burden (Northern Territory Government, n.d.). In such cases, it would be helpful to have a relatively good friendship-type relationship with the parent who left, so that he or she can share some of the responsibility of parenthood.
In single-parent households, and especially those headed by mothers, families can experience stability and happiness, even if the father is not a constant presence. This is not to deny the importance of the paternal role. Children who receive regular love and attention from their fathers do benefit.
Most commonly, it is assumed that that the father-son relationship is somewhat more important than the father-daughter connection. Fathers and sons, for example, frequently share common interests in terms of sports, the father's work, or the son's school assignments. Increasingly, however, it has also been suggested that fathers play a very important role in the lives of their daughters. Many daughters, for example, revel in their status as "daddy's little girl" or "daddy's princess." These terms of endearment, their most effective form, make daughters feel loved and protected by the strongest members of their family. By being made to feel like this in the context of their homes, such daughters grow up to become confident and effective young women.
According to Scutti (2013), research has shown that the father-daughter relationship can have a significant effect on the self-esteem of a woman. In her article, she refers to the father as the "first man" in a woman's life. As such, the father of the household, in terms of his daughters, acts as the first role model of behavior towards women and children. When anything within this type of behavior is amiss, it affects the way in which the daughter perceives the world and any romantic relationships she forms in the future. Hence, the effect of a father on his daughter's future is absolutely important and absolutely significant.
At the same time, the father's role in his son's life is equally important in terms of how to handle relationships and treat those around oneself. In other words, a father role models what it is to be a male…