OPINION | BY Markeida L. Johnson
Both parents play significant roles in the growth and development of their children. When both parents are well rounded with the minimum conflict between them, children tend to do better on many outcomes such as fewer emotional issues, fewer behavior problems, better health conditions, and better economic households. Every child deserves to be born to two parents who understand how important they are to the upbringing of their future family.
According to the data center of kidscount.org, research shows that in 2015 66% or 6,333,000 African-American kids were parented by a single parent. Of course, this doesn’t mean that both parents are not sharing the responsibility of raising their child, but at this rate, there is an alarming number of children not having a biological two-parent home experience. The child has to adapt to two homes, maybe with step-parents, or even with step-siblings. Yet, there are many children who will never experience having both biological parents to share in their livelihood. More than not, mothers are the main source of raising children, which means fathers are the common absent parent for most children who grow up in single-parent homes.
There is an ongoing dispute whether children who are raised in single parent homes have a greater disadvantage than children raised in two-parent homes. According to the Census Bureau from 1960 and 2013, African –American children who lived in single-parent homes more than doubled from 22% to 55%. The same research showed that white children from single-parent homes tripled from 7% to 22%. Some would say, yes, there are disadvantages for both parent and child.
Stress comes in because of one person being the main responsible care taker. The one parent having to shoulder all the decision making for the entire family can be over-whelming at times. Which then the pressure can trickle down to the children because of the stressful atmosphere of the home. Economics can certainly be a disadvantage when there is only one income. The single parent may have to work extra hours or maybe even two jobs to help make ends meet. While smaller children may not understand why there is only enough money for necessities.
Loneliness for both parent and child are felt. The parent doesn’t have the advantage of sharing the worries and burdens of the family with a companion. While the child will miss the over-worked parent whose trying to keep a household together. Education can suffer for the child who may not have a parent available to encourage both good behavior and good academics. While a single parent who wishes to advance their own education with diplomas, certificates, or degrees just simply can’t.
The rise in single parent homes has caused a ripple effect in the downfall of the family structure. This ripple can be from the cause of divorce, death, or abandonment. Whichever the cause, the family structure will feel the loss of the absent parent in the home. Society will certainly feel the loss as well. This can be due to extra programs that will need to be implemented to fill the gaps of the family.
So if programs have to be implemented, why not erect programs to educate couples on marriage preparedness? Maybe even start in high school educating students on family virtues or structure? Let’s see the single-parent situation as a means to heal it instead of placing a temporary bandaid on it. More dialog should be in early education of teens and young adults instead of after there is a problem with mid to older adults. There is a solution to this forced single parenting epidemic; it just needs to be found and implemented skillfully and successfully.
There are several causes why single-parent families exist. In past years, the war caused some families to lose a parent, more commonly the father. Mothers were widowed and left to resume sole responsibility for the children. In recent years, divorce has become a far more common issue for single parent homes. Research has shown that there is a 40% chance of first-time marriages ending in divorce. That’s nearly half of the nation’s children having a possibility to be raised by one parent. That’s not to mention the affects the children will experience from divorce itself. Depending on the ages of the children, the coping mechanisms will be different for each child.
Giving birth out of wedlock is another cause of single parenting. (According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from data from 2010), 73% of African American children are born out of wedlock. With that being said, not every birth out of wedlock is unintentional. There are a few who have every intention of raising children on their own. Everyone has a different reason why they want children. Nevertheless, unintended pregnancies are more common among unmarried than married. These unintentional births can cause a significant strain on the family foundation. The children suffer numerous adverse effects such as poor health, higher risk of violence, and poor achievements in school.
Adoptions can be another cause of single parent families. History has shown that adoption agencies did not allow single parent adoptions. Mainly, because the agencies thought such households would harm the children, both emotionally and economically. However, most recently, many states have begun to allow single-parents homes with “exceptional circumstances.” According to The Adoption History Project, in 1965, the Los Angeles Bureau of Adoptions, was the first to organize an effort to enlist single parents to adopt. The agency sought out single African Americans adults to place African American children in homes when married parents could not be found. This experiment, with a few other scenarios, were used as a means to place children in homes. The century long laws of adoption began to change as a result of the outcomes of the experiments so that children could grow up in a family environment.
Socioeconomics and racism in Tulsa have proven to be the disparities between North and South Tulsa. Compared to other racial groups, African Americans in the State of Oklahoma are more likely to be charged with crimes or be victims of crime. Many are unfairly targeted by bad policing. The family suffers greatly when the black male is the target, which takes him out of the home, jobs, and society. When this stress is put on the family, it trickles down to the behavior of the children both at home and at school. Now the schools have designed a zero-tolerance policy for the African American community. Sadly, families have to deal with the issue of “school-to-prison-pipeline” which pushes children out of schools for some of the same behaviors other racial children commit. This is a domino effect of the breakdown of the black family structure. It’s not until we can fix the system, those who are in charge of laws, will there be a solid solution in African American single parent homes.
Giving families a better quality of life can improve morale and the thrill of living a successful life. Revitalizing neighborhoods, upgrading schools, and imploring businesses to move in deteriorated areas can help to remove the resentment that African Americans may hold against city officials. When people have a purpose, they have a will….a will to build up, a will to unite, and a will to govern their communities. Yet with all the negative narratives of single parenting, there are many parents who fight the stigma and raise successful children. These single-parent children grow to be some of our greatest icons in American history, such as Halley Barry (actress), Shaquille O’Neal (NBA legend), Samuel L. Jackson (actor), Mary J. Blige (music recording artist), and our 44th President Barak Obama. These names say that not all will fall in the cracks of failure and defeat. Maybe they did experience the emotional pitfall of the missing parent. However, their single parents were able to put them on a track to provide a nurturing future. With a support system from family and friends, the stress of raising a child alone can be reduced. Redirecting the energy used on the agony of a motherless or fatherless child can put the child on the path to great success.