The Effects of Single Parents on Boys

Single parents have a unique position in their children’s lives because they have to play the role of both mother and father in situations where the other parent has passed away, is divorced, has neglected the child, or never was involved in the child’s life. Researchers have found that when kids grow up in single-parent homes, boys are affected more adversely than girls -- especially when the available parent is the mother, according to the report, “Wayward Sons: The Emerging Gender Gap in Labor Markets and Education,” published on the Third Way Organization website. The sons of single parents may experience financial, emotional, social and psychological issues.


The single parent is the sole provider for the home, and boys growing up in such families experience higher incidences of poverty. A 2012 study of single parenthood in the United States and 16 other high-income countries, found that U.S. single parents are the worst off of these countries because single parents are given little support for balancing job and care-giving responsibilities, according to the New York Times article, “Single Parents: Unsupported and Feeling The Blame.” The single parent has to work long hours, and still the income may not be enough to meet the needs of the family. As a result, single parents may not be in a position to make available the education and economic opportunities their sons need to get ahead.


Boys in single-parent homes may suffer from social challenges because these homes lack the well-rounded development that intact families enjoy. Single mothers are not as adept at rearing boys as they are in raising girls because they cannot teach boys how to become a man. Single mothers may also invest less time and emotion in their sons than in their daughters, causing the boys to misbehave and act out -- especially in school. Boys exhibit at-risk behaviors such as getting low grades, skipping school or dropping out, and they often refuse to attend college or make choices that could affect their ability for greater economic opportunities in the future. The study found that boys in single-parent homes would benefit from greater parental input and from having a greater number of positive home influences.


Emotional effects are also associated with fatherless boys. Mothers head a significant number of single-parent homes, and in spite of mothers’ efforts to be present for their sons, boys might feel incomplete, alone and that they lack a strong sense of identity. The need to belong might push them to join a group to get a sense of identity; in many cases, boys are more likely to be influenced toward substance abuse, truancy and crime. A single mother needs to be compassionate, patient, supportive and actively involved in seeking out activities and role models for her son to help him cope with the feelings of anger, alienation, vulnerability and confusion he might experience. Single fathers also need to be empathic and try to understand and comfort their sons to mitigate the absence of their mothers.


The sons of single parents are more likely to be predisposed toward psychological disturbances. The largest study to date on the mental state of single-parent children, published in The Lancet in 2003, Swedish researchers found that children of single parents and, boys in particular, are at greater risk of suffering mental hardships because they have to adjust to their reality, which is different from that of children in two-parent households. The children need to learn to cope but the study shows that they are sometimes unable to cope, because of situational stress and that they tend more toward depression, addiction, suicidal tendencies and low self-esteem. While this may sometimes be the case, nine out of 10 teens from single-parent homes do not suffer psychological problems serious enough for hospitalization, and that better-quality parenting alleviates the problem, CBS News reports.

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