The Effect of Single-Parent Homes on Academic Achievement| |
Children from single parent homes are not as negatively impacted academically as some in the popular media suggest. The number of children living in single-parent homes has risen dramatically over the last 10 years. Despite prior research stating that single-parenting itself has a negative impact on academic achievement, new findings show that it is other social and environmental factors that have a much greater impact. There are several theories that can be used to study the way family structure influences academic achievement, as well as to demonstrate the influence of other factors such as poverty and family resources. When these factors are more closely examined it is evident that within any family structure a lack of necessary financial and supportive resources will negatively affect children’s academic achievement. As the number of both single and two-parent families living in poverty rises, this research is important in helping to develop an educational system in the United States that is both equal and effective for the growing changes in family demographics. Keywords: academic achievement, single-parent homes, Family Deficit Model, Risk and Protective Factor Model, social capital theory, parental involvement
Children from single parent homes are not as negatively impacted academically as some in the popular media suggest. Raising children without a partner presents many challenges, but there is research that points to strategies to mitigate these issues. Specifically in terms of children’s academic achievement, studies show that it is other social and environmental factors, not single parenthood itself, which accounts for the achievement gap between children from single-parent homes and their peers from nuclear families. Statistics
In 2007, there were approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States (Wolf, 2011). This number was an increased from an estimated 11 million on 1994 (Engber, 1995). In roughly 81% of these homes, the mother is the custodial parent, with just 17% of fathers as the primary custodian. Of the mothers who are head of household, 45% are divorced or separated, 34.2% have never been married, 19% are remarried (to someone other than other parent), and 1.9% are widowed (Wolf, 2011). Other important statistic regarding single-parent homes is that almost 40% are living at or below the poverty line in the United States. Nearly 90% of single-parents however, are employed full-time (Wolf, 2011). This places many families in a situation where their income is too high to receive state funded services such as Medicaid and cash assistance, but not high enough to meet the family’s financial needs.
Different models have been used throughout the years to study the effects of single parenting on children. In the 1970’s the Family Deficit Model suggested that single-parent homes have a negative impact on children because the model starts from the assumption that the traditional nuclear family structure is ideal. This model did not take into account economic or other social factors that influence families. In the early 1990’s the Risk and Protective Factor Model was developed. This model states that family structure is one of several risk factors. Under this model, a risk factor can be any environmental, familial, or social factor that has the potential to have a negative impact on a family. Protective factors, as described by this model, are those that positively support a family and can lessen the effects of risk factors (Adoption Media LLC, 2011). A third theory used to research the effect of single-parent homes on academic achievement is social capital theory. Social capital refers to a person or family’s ability to access resources such as income and education. According to Shriner et al. (2010), “As a construct, social capital is...