Single Parenting: Choices and Circumstances
The number of single-parent households recorded within the African-American community in the United States is disconcerting. According to Jacobson (2013), “more than 72 percent of children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock” (para. 3). While these statistics can be debated, data collected from Social Services and Child Support agencies that by function, support single mothers and children can be deemed reliable based upon claim filings. The United States’ Census, which compiles citizens’ household and demographical information supplements the data obtained from various federal and state agencies, and may shed further light on single-parent homes where one parent exists. Collectively, the statistics frame a dismal view of the socioeconomic climate within the African-American community. Whether the African-American community accepts these reports is irrelevant in the face of a child’s welfare and development.
The following discourse excludes major life-changing and/or uncontrollable events (i.e. death, violence, abuse, etc.) that can create single-parent households, and significantly and negatively impact child development. The focus here concentrates upon autonomous decisions and behaviors within a person’s life; as the exercise of contributes to the origination of both positive and negative situations within our lives. Moreover, when we objectively evaluate circumstance alongside contextual factors, clarity between cause and effect is established. Despite the best of intentions, people make decisions that have a long-term impact for better or worse. Unfortunately, single-parenting yields fewer positive benefits for children within these households compared to children raised in living environments where both parents are present. This conclusion raises the question—what is the impact of single-parenting on child development?
One obvious and possibly, the most impactful difference between single- and dual-parent households is income level. Two working parents can secure a greater number of resources (i.e. food, clothing, learning, education, etc.), which are essential to a child’s development. Perhaps the only time in which a single parent’s income may exceed the combined wealth of two working parents is when they have obtained a white-collar job, or in fewer cases, is a celebrity. Limited income also determines a parent and child’s social environment. Oftentimes, low-income households are found embedded within poor, underdeveloped and/or deteriorating neighborhoods. Because of poor economic conditions, it is not uncommon to find, average to low levels of education. Federal and State funding at the very least, sustain poor communities but don’t advance or elevate the poor economy. This reality in part has perpetuated a cycle of dependency upon subsidies and other governmental assistance that impedes an impoverished individual’s capacity to move beyond a substandard quality of living. Simplistically, governmental aid provide for peoples’ basic need of survival while simultaneously disabling/hindering opportunities for local socioeconomic growth.
A stereotype of the African-American community has been that Black people are a lazy and inferior race. However, history shows that White Americans subjugated Blacks into submission and systematically prevented them from accessing financial and socioeconomic resources, which would have aided their advancement within the United States. The educational deficiencies of the African-Americans weren’t due to an inherent learning disability or defect. Rather, the problem was a consequence of enslaving Blacks and forcibly preventing them from obtaining an adequate education. By the time methodologies for educational and intelligence testing were established, African-Americans were already left behind. There’s an adage, “when you know better, you do better” (Angelou, n. d.). So, is single-parenting primarily the result of inadequate education or lifestyle choice? In consideration of socioeconomic factors, single-parenting outcomes are likely driven by both.
Some may assume that children reared in single-parent homes are more likely to be single-parents themselves. This outcome may occur when single parents do not instill family values and teach their children how to cultivate healthy relationships throughout development. The same could be said of married or cohabitating parents. In such cases, the living environment could be unstable and characterized by violence and/or abuse. The conditions would create a traumatically stressful environment that could potentially negatively impact a child’s development. Without learning how to effectively cope with living in a tumultuous or neglectful environment, children are inclined to exhibit similar patterns of behavior in adulthood. In contrast, children can learn how to develop positive emotional attachments under the care of loving and attentive parents—whether single, married or cohabitating through modeling. These healthy attachments can transition into healthy, lasting relationships in adulthood. But the key phenomenon in these scenarios is learning. Learning is critical to making healthy, productive decisions.
In my dealings with women (relatives and associates), some have said that one man or another promised to marry or be with them forever. Yet, absent were the moments where marriage-oriented behaviors were exhibited, and engagement rings presented. The men, who entered and departed their lives, trailed numerous unfulfilled promises. Nonetheless, the women conceived a child or several children by the same men, who were irresponsible and had competing priorities (i.e. multiple women, children, lifestyle, etc.). Their predicament of single-motherhood worsened when the fathers were unemployed or unwilling to provide for the children they sired.
I knew of a woman who had children by a street-hustler, and when their relationship deteriorated, she angrily hurried to the child-support office. The woman reported to a caseworker that the father of her children was a drug-dealer. The caseworker could provide little help with regards to the mother’s plight. While child-support agencies can mandate parents to pay through various forms of legal action, it is increasingly difficult when income is either nonexistent or legally untraceable. The parent would have to generate income through unemployment or disability benefits, or be employed through an employer that has filed W-2s with the Social Security Administration.
Where a parent is a drug-dealer, it must be legally proven—often with the assistance of an attorney specializing in criminal cases. In an effort to enforce financial assistance from fathers, child-support agencies can leverage their capacity to set in motion any or all of the following actions: suspension of driver’s licenses; liens against property; bank freezes; and incarceration. Even still, a father may choose to forgo employment, endure the consequences of their actions, and allow their children to suffer. If the father refuses to pay in the face of pending repercussions, what can a single-mother do? The answer is simple. Nothing, but take care of the children on their own.
For single-mothers, why entangle yourselves with men that obviously do not have your best interests? Why birth children by men who are ill-prepared to be fathers? Be honest with yourself by ceasing with the “I didn’t know,” and the “I thought he would change” responses, because the child ultimately suffers as a result of their parents’ poor decisions. Like anyone who decides to make a personal change, men change because they desire to, not because someone made them. No amount of devotion and/or sex will make a man commit or be responsible unless he chooses.
Women must realize that any man can make promises. But a mature and responsible man fulfills his promises. A man whose actions align with his communications is a one of good quality and character. In contrast, selfish, irresponsible men are typically unsuitable for fatherhood because they fail to realize or deny the necessity of providing for anyone besides themselves. Furthermore, there is something that selfish men understand—when women birth their children, a lifelong connection is established between them. The woman is unworthy of marriage, but is at least valuable enough to be shelved for future access. A baby makes future interaction possible. This is where women must exercise greater intuition, because a selfish man will string a series of empty promises and fulfill some or none. Fulfillment of some promises is only to maintain a woman’s attentions. However, a man’s consistency sheds light on the depth of his intentions. Again, it’s a heart condition that will persist, regardless of a woman’s love and dedication. A person’s desire to change is a driven by their individual motivations.
Besides intuition, a woman’s best defense is holding onto her standards regardless of how a man responds or behaves. If you desire a long-term relationship or marriage then conduct yourself in a manner befitting of someone who is pursuing those goals. If a man stops calling or coming to see you because you’re seeking something substantial, then he has only proven what type of man he was all along. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
Despite the large number of mothers functioning as single-parents, fathers are not the total villains. Many women prey on men through manipulation and deception. Women may disapprove of this statement, but the cases are undeniable. Women have lied with regards to their use of contraception prior to and after intercourse. Men in response have lowered their guard in wearing condoms during sexual intercourse, resulting in unanticipated pregnancy. Once pregnant, women have claimed that the “pill didn’t work,” or provided some other lame excuse. It seems that where some men have more appealing traits (i.e. physical attractiveness, financial status, etc.), women are more calculating. This is even true in instances where women strive to hold onto men whose interests don’t extend beyond a sexual encounter.
For men who are sexually active, it is necessary to utilize caution and wisdom. The notion that a man can “pull out” before ejaculation and prevent pregnancy is a myth. Pre-ejaculation of semen varies in terms of concentration and amount of sperm, which can lead to impregnation. Misconceptions regarding the utilization of home contraceptive remedies in combination with unprotected sex, have also contributed to unwanted pregnancies. Lastly, the improper use of condoms adds further risks of pregnancy. Expired, ill-fitting, or porous condoms increase the risk of pregnancy and the transmission of sexually-transmitted disease.
How can the African-American community unify and strengthen its household? There are several factors to consider. First, Black women must be more discriminate regarding the men, whom they choose to cultivate intimate relationships. A man who desires and is prepared for marriage and commitment will behave in a manner that reflects these goals. Men must exercise greater caution when engaging in sexual activity—using protection to minimize the risks of conception. If there is no mutual agreement between man and woman to conceive, then both parties should share in the responsibility of implementing preventative measures.
According to Vasel (2015), the “cost to raise a child born in 2015 in a middle-income household with married parents is an estimated $233,610, which doesn’t include college expenses” (para. 1). In comparison, the cost to raise a child in a “low-income family is an estimated $174,690” (Vasel, 2017). The cost to obtain and maintain housing, food and childcare comprise the bulk of the projected expense. Childcare alone can “average $37,378” (Vasel, 2017), which potential parents should be aware. Bugbee (n. d.) reports that the weekly cost of obtaining an after-school sitter is $214.05, which equates to $11,130 annually, based on a 52 week schedule. These estimated costs noted aren’t perceived as ominous if both parents are employed. However, it can be discouraging and overwhelming for a single-parent whose income, combined from all sources, doesn’t equate or exceed projected costs. The best advice that potential parents can have, single or married, is plan before conception.
Perhaps sex education should be permitted to return to schools in affluent and rural communities. Society has advanced a lifestyle agenda of casual sex. It seems that there’s no escaping the temptation because sex is a theme that treads entertainment (i.e. television, programs, music, etc.) and traverses technology. In the absence of education, entertainment has unfettered access to infiltrate and program cognitive processes. It is no coincidence that some people re-enact what they see and hear through television and radio. Knowledge and education enable us to distinguish reality from illusion. Without these vehicles, human beings are prone to make unwise decisions and repeated mistakes.
Bugbee, K. (n. d.). How Much Does Child Care Cost? Retrieved March 28, 2017 from https://www.care.com/c/stories/2423/how-much-does-child-care-cost/.
CNN’s Don Lemon Says More Than 72 Percent of African-American Births Are Out of Wedlock. Retrieved March 16, 2017 from http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jul/29/don-lemon/cnns-don-lemon-says-more-72-percent-african-americ/.
Kunz, M. (2015). The Effects of a Single Parent Home On Child Behavior. Retrieved March 19, 2017 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/83670-effects-single-parent-home-childs/.
72 Percent of Black Kids Raised By Single Parent, 25% Overall in U.S. (2017). Retrieved March 15, 2017 from https://newsone.com/1195075/children-single-parents-u-s-american/.
Vasel, K. (2017). It Costs $233,610 To Raise A Child. Retrieved March 28, 2017 from http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/09/pf/cost-of-raising-a-child-2015/.