The adoption of a child by a single parent has shown a steady increase over the past decade. This increase is not just with special needs children but is also found with healthy children.
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When Daniel Patrick Moynihan raised the issue of family structure half a century ago, his concern was the increase in black families headed by women. Since then, the share of children raised in single-parent families in the United States has grown across racial and ethnic groups and with it evidence regarding the impact of family structure on outcomes for children.
Recent studies have documented a sizable achievement gap between children who live with a single parent and their peers growing up with two parents. These patterns are cause for concern, as educational achievement is a key driver of economic prosperity for both individuals and society as a whole.
But how does the U. The data confirm that the U. And the educational achievement gap between children raised in single-parent and two-parent families, although present in virtually all countries, is particularly pronounced in the U.
Sincethere have been substantial changes in achievement gaps by family structure in many countries, with the gap widening in some countries and narrowing in others.
These varying trends, and the pattern for the U. Ample evidence indicates the potential for enhancing family environments, regardless of their makeup, to improve the quality of parenting, nurturing, and stimulation, and promote healthy child development.
Evidence on Family Structure The effect of family structure on child outcomes is a much-studied subject, and many researchers, including Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur Growing up with a Single Parent,have explored the potentially adverse effects of single parenting on children.
Single parents may also have less time to spend with their children, and partnership instability may subject these parents to psychological and emotional stresses that worsen the nurturing environment for children. Documented disadvantages of growing up in single-parent families in the United States include lower educational attainment and greater psychological distress, as well as poor adult outcomes in areas such as employment, income, and marital status.
Disadvantages for children from single-parent families have also been documented in other countries, including Canada, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. But cross-country evidence has been difficult to obtain, in part because of differing methods for measuring family structure and child outcomes.
The PISA studies, which asked representative samples of year-olds in each participating country the same questions about their living arrangements, provide a unique opportunity to address this challenge.
At the same time, it should be noted that the descriptive patterns documented here do not necessarily capture a causal effect of living in a single-parent family.
Decisions to get divorced, end cohabitation, or bear a child outside a partnership are likely related to other factors important for child development, making it difficult to separate out the influence of family structure.
For example, severe stress that leads to family breakup might well have continued without the breakup and have led to worse outcomes for a child had the family remained intact.
It is even conceivable that problems a child has in school may contribute to family breakup, rather than being a consequence of it. In addition to comparing the raw gap in educational achievement between children from single- and two-parent families, I present results that adjust for other background differences, including the number of books at home, parental education, and immigrant and language background.
This type of analysis can provide useful information about the reasons educational achievement varies with family structure.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that even these adjusted associations between child outcomes and family structure may well have causes other than family structure itself. PISA tests the math, science, and reading achievement of representative samples of year-old students in each participating country.
In nearly all countries, students living in single-parent families have lower achievement on average than students living in two-parent families. PISA collects a rich array of background information in student questionnaires.Google Groups allows you to create and participate in online forums and email-based groups with a rich experience for community conversations.
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