single parent families

As this topic is something I’m now very interested in learning more about, I was surprised to hear a study being reported on during our local TV news. I’ll add the text of an article from the newspaper if you are interested too…

Solo parenting: quality counts

5:00AM Friday September 21, 2007 By Errol Kiong

Coming from a single-parent home does not necessarily disadvantage a child later in life, latest findings from a long-term New Zealand study have revealed.

The paper, from Otago University’s Christchurch Health and Development Study and published in the US journal The Archives of General Psychiatry, says the major influences on how a child develops are not related to single parenthood but to how a family functions.

Some international research has linked children from single-parent households to poorer economic wellbeing, education outcomes and a higher risk of criminal behaviour and mental health problems.

Most of this research has tended to focus on childhood, and relatively little has been reported on the longer-term consequences of being reared in a single-parent family.

Professor David Fergusson, who leads the long-running study, said the first part of the findings appeared to match conventional wisdom.

“Those who’d been in single-parent families turned out to have more problems as adults than those that did not, particularly those who had been in single-parent families a long time.”

But when the family context was taken into account, the differences disappeared.

“We recognise, however, that single-parent families don’t exist in isolation … Less-well-educated parents tend to separate, families with problems tend to separate and all of those things.

“When we did that, we found that there was virtually no association between single parenthood and how you turned out as a young adult.

“What these results suggest is that it’s not the number of parents that count, it’s how the family is functioning. And children in single-parent families tend to have more problems because their families don’t function so well, often prior to the breakdown.

“It’s often that poor functioning that leads to both the breakdown of the family and to childhood problems.”

The study looked at 970 children born in Christchurch in 1977. They were split into four groups based on the amount of time they had spent in a single-parent family by the age of 16.

Radio interview with Professor David Fergusson