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Over half of all children born every year spend all or some of their childhood apart from one of their parents, more so their fathers. In fact, there has been a drastic increase in the number of single-parent families in the latter half of the twentieth century. Since the 90s, teenage pregnancies, which comprise two-thirds of teen mothers, have risen. Part of the reason include lack of close contact with adult role models, peer pressure; family poverty, the perception among many teens that few opportunities for success are available, and inadequate sex education, especially about contraception and family planning. Girls who have a positive self-image, high expectations and aspirations for the future, and good relationships with their parents are much less likely to get pregnant than others.

The other form of parenthood involves single women who choose to bear or adopt and raise children alone. Technological developments allowing insemination without actual inter-course have contributed to women's choices in this regard as in the case of lesbians. Mother-only families also include widows, divorced and separated women, and never-married mothers.

With one parent, the challenges of parenthood get multiplied. This is because of the responsibility overload where only one parent makes all the decisions and provides for all of the family needs. There is also the task over-load, where the demands for work, housework, and parenting start becoming overwhelming for one person. There is also the emotional overload. The single parent must always be available to meet both their own and their children's emotional needs. All these result in problems for the single parent, not to mention the loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Many psychologists argue that this has been the reason why we currently witness so many negative effects in children, families, and society. It is argued that children raised by single parents are more likely to fare worse in school, their social and emotional development, their health and their success in the labour market. In most cases, they are usually at greater risk of parental abuse and neglect, more likely to become teen parents and less likely to graduate from high school or college. Furthermore, teenagers who spend part of their childhood away from their biological father are twice as likely to become parents themselves before age twenty, and one and a half times as likely to be idle in their late teens and early twenties.

The other disadvantage faced by children in single-parent families is inadequate attention and guidance from the parent. Children need more than just economic security to thrive; they require parents who have the time to help them with their homework, read to them, and listen to how their day went in school. They also need parents who can supervise their activities outside of school. One parent alone does not have the time to do these things, whereas two parents working together often do. This as a result of instability in the family structure.

In mother-only families, children tend to experience short-and long-term economic and psychological disadvantages, higher absentee rates at school, lower levels of education, and higher dropout rates (with boys more negatively affected than girls) and more delinquent activity, including alcohol and drug addiction. Adolescents, on the other hand, are more negatively affected by parental discord prior to divorce than by living in single-parent families and actually gain in responsibility as a result of altered family routines.

A common explanation for the problems found among the children of single parents has been the absence of a male adult in the family. The relationship between children and absent fathers is usually difficult and strained and has implications beyond childhood. It is a fact that single mothers are socially ostracized and seen as having inferior status. This works negatively in the physical and psychological growth of their children. Societal views are also expressed in public discourse about women living outside of marriage and family who fail to live up to the ideals of motherhood imposed through legal and public policies. This is the main reason why fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality.

It is also a fact that 49% of all child abuse cases are committed by single mothers. Fatherless children are also at dramatically greater risk of suicide since they are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, compared to those living in intact families. It has also been identified that boys who grow up in father-absent homes have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity.

Growing up in a female-headed household has remained a statistical predictor of behavioral problems in children especially in teens and adolescents. Children reared by a divorced or never-married mother have been found to be less cooperative compared to their peers in two-parent homes. They usually get into trouble more than those from two-parent families. They oftenly show high levels of emotional distress or problem behavior. Father ‘hunger’ often afflicts boys between ages one and two especially those whose fathers are suddenly and permanently absent. They have trouble falling asleep, get nightmares and night terrors frequently especially within one to three months after the father leaves home. As they grow older, there develops greater levels of aggression especially in boys.

The relationship between family structure and crime is so strong. There has been this theory that children without fathers or living with stepfathers were less likely to have friends who think it's important to behave properly in school. They also exhibit more problems with behaviour and in achieving goals. The absence of a father also increases the risk of harshness from the mother which increases the risk for them developing a criminal behaviour later in life. A study that was done in America showed that 72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers, while 60% of America's rapists grew up the same way.

Anyway, not all children raised in single parent families suffer these adverse outcomes; it is simply that the risks are greater for them. It is sometimes true that children of single parents do better than children of married parents, especially 10- to 14-year olds. In their day-to-day lives, single parents are friendlier to their children than married parents. Their children also tend to spend more time with people in their extended families than did the children of married parents.

Sociologists found out that single mothers rarely raised their children single-handedly. They instead have networks of friends and relatives and neighbours who care about them and their children, and have been part of their lives for years.

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