A recent study carried out by Gingerbread (the leading national charity working with single-parent families) and a multi-disciplinary team from the faculty of social sciences at the University of Sheffield has found that children’s well-being is not negatively impacted by living in single-parent households.
The report - Family Portrait: Single parent families and transitions over time - analyses data collected for 27,834 households with children over a six-year period, from 2009 to 2017. Using measures such as 'life satisfaction,' 'feelings about their family,' and 'the quality of relationships with peers,’ the report finds no evidence that children who are living or have lived in a single parent household have a lower measure of well-being than those who have always lived in two parent families. Indeed, the report finds that children growing up in single parent families score as highly, or higher, against those measures of well-being.
The report also finds that single parenthood is more common than often reported. Whilst 24% of families with children are single-parent families at any point in time and the proportion of single parents has remained relatively stable, the report finds that about one third of families with children have been a single-parent family at some time during the six-year period they looked at.
The report also highlights that whilst nearly all single parents are living in a household with no other adult, many transition in and out of single parenthood over time. Also, single parents are more likely than two-parent families to receive financial support and practical help from their children’s grandparents, who can play a key role in promoting the children’s well-being; and that family and caring relationships are complex and often extend beyond the immediate household unit.
This important research report concludes by stressing the importance of taking ‘a more dynamic view of family life,’ and resisting popular narratives about ‘the perceived problems of single parenthood for children.’
Rosie Ferguson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, comments:
"Our report with the University of Sheffield debunks myths about single parent households and significantly, it shows that children are not negatively impacted if raised by a lone parent. What is most important to a child's wellbeing is the presence of positive relationships. We urge policymakers and researchers alike to do more to challenge popular stereotypes and reflect the dynamism of family life."