The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Volume 4: Issue: 15)

The Topic: Children of Single Parents 

The News Story: Choosing to be a Single Parent

The New Research: The Single-Parent Handicap—Even in Western Europe


The News Story: Choosing to be a Single Parent

“Technology is available for having a baby without a romantic partner,” writes Danielle Braff in a story profiling women who deliberately chose single motherhood.

Nina Davenport set herself a “deadline” of 42 to find a partner with whom to have a child, and when she turned 41 and was still single, she began the process of finding a sperm donor and becoming pregnant. Jane Mattes, who chose single motherhood 35 years ago, founded the New York-based “Single Mothers by Choice” to provide the “support network” normally filled by a spouse and family. And George Sachs, 47 and a child psychologist, “posted a profile on Modamily, a website founded in 2012 that helps match people interested in co-parenting but not necessarily looking for a romantic relationship.” He hopes to co-parent with an educated woman or with a lesbian couple in New York because, he said, while he isn't against marriage, he doesn't see it as a prerequisite to having a child.”

So “when time is running out biologically, it might be time to start thinking of alternative options.” Mattes suggests women start considering such options by the time they reach 32 or 33, because “A lot of women used to say that they wished they had done it earlier because they wanted two (kids).”

The one thing this story leaves out?

The children themselves. And new research on single parenthood suggests that the lives such children lead are lacking, even in such essentials as physical health.

(Source: Danielle Braff, “Choosing to be a Single Parent,” Chicago Tribune, posted at the Charlotte Observer, April 7, 2016.)


The New Research: The Single-Parent Handicap—Even in Western Europe 

When confronted with studies detailing the hardships facing American children of single parents, progressives often shift the focus, arguing that these hardships would disappear if only American policymakers gave single mothers the kind of generous public support given their counterparts in Western Europe. But new evidence that the problems afflicting children of single parents persist even in progressive Western Europe appears in a Dutch study recently completed by analysts from HealthActCHQ in the United States and University Medical Centre Rotterdam and Statistics Netherlands.

Based on data collected between 2001 and 2009 from the parents of 10,651 Dutch children between the ages of four and eleven, this new study seeks to identify the antecedents of “health-related quality of life” for these children. The authors of the study investigate this topic because they recognize that “Good health is something all parents want for their children as it contributes to their happiness and well-being.” They explain that “health-related quality of life (HRQOL) is the functional effect of a medical condition and/or its therapy upon a patient.” As a “subjective and multidimensional [metric], encompassing physical and occupational function, psychological state, social interaction and somatic sensation,” health-related quality of life proves “particularly suitable for describing the health of children in a general representative sample.” 

Unsurprisingly, family structure stands out as one of the “family/environmental determinants” of children’s health-related quality of life. Compared to children in single-parent families, children living with two parents came in with a significantly higher overall score for health-related quality of life (p = 0.04). 

The difference separating children living in the two different family structures stands out most clearly in the Psychosocial Summary Scale (PsS) part of the overall metric the researchers use: “living in single-parent families was a significant contributor to PsS score variance: a lower mean score was observed for children living in a single-parent family [p < 0.01].” The researchers tersely add: “This has been reported by others as well.”

No doubt progressives will continue to argue that a larger welfare state will ease the burdens faced by single parents. But even in Europe, real-world research makes it increasingly difficult to take seriously such sola fide arguments.

(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research,” The Family in America 29.3 [Summer 2015]. Study: Marieke Houben-van Heteren et al., “Determinants of Health-Related Quality of Life in School-Aged Children: A General Population Study in the Netherlands,” PLoSOne 10.5[2015]: e0125083, Web.)