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Single Parenthood: A diminishing factor of a child’s well-being


Growing Up with a Single Parent, What Hurts, What Helps (Harvard University Press, 1994, 196 pgs.) by Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur informs readers that, whether a single parent is a divorced parent or an unmarried mother or father, the fact is that the overall outcome on a child’s well-being will not be as great as if a child had two biological parents. Do you recall viewing the CBS-aired sitcom known as “Murphy Brown”? According to the book, Growing Up with a Single Parent, Vice President Dan Quayle, in the early 1990’s, expressed a significant amount of disapproval of the show. This widely debatable and nationally accepted television show seemed to cause a lot of controversy. Murphy Brown was single parent and on the show, single parenting seemed acceptable, even though Murphy Brown obviously had sex before marriage. Quayle and the authors of the book agreed that having children without being married puts children at an even greater risk than those children in a two-parent family face. (1) McLanahan’s and Sandefur’s feelings are still valuable today and hold true to a great degree, even though the book was published in 1994.

The authors show that children of single parents face challenges because of a loss of resources. Families tend to be low income, and sometimes the single parent is not well-educated. The authors study race and ethnicity and explain the effect of single parenting on the children’s well-being. McLanahan’s and Sandefur’s feelings are still valuable today and hold true to a great degree, even though the book was published in 1994.

There are many views about the consequences of single parenting portrayed in the media. Today, television shows and movies can create the impression that single parenting is just fine. For instance, when Halle Berry, a pregnant single mother, was seen on “Oprah,” they openly shared with a vast crowd the fact that single parenting is acceptable. Berry, who is a 41- year old unmarried but pregnant star, said she feels that single parenting is a thoughtful and effective way to raise a child. Oprah agreed with her comments. This could influence the younger generation. The authors stated in a rather harsh manner that single parenting is perfectly fine in the first chapter of the book titled “Why We Care About Single Parenthood. So many young children of single parent families admire both Berry and Oprah greatly. If these children grow up believing Berry and Oprah and engage in this act as Berry did, it turns out if they become pregnant, their children’s outcome in life may become hindered and could ultimately lead to failure in the future, the authors say.

To demonstrate the likelihood of failure, the authors also discussed the high school dropout rates in the 1980’s for adolescents from single parent homes. During the 1980’s, the rate of dropping out of school for school-aged children was very close to twenty percent. However, for children living with two parents, it was only thirteen percent. (McLanahan and Sandefur 2) The high school dropout rate is shocking. Today, dropout rates are still a big problem. Just recently, Celeste Headlee, from the National Public Radio, reported a brand new study from Education Week. Their findings illustrate the fact that thirty-three percent at the minimum of early adolescents in the nation, aren’t working for their diplomas. Headlee then goes on to say that Detroit has the worst rate with less than twenty-five percent of freshmen actually graduating. (1). One may ask why this is still happening. The responses may include a number of things Headlee said, such as their parents’ personal lives, household troubles and many others. The book’s statistics and the statistics from NPR are quite similar despite the twenty-seven year gap.


A set of two parents offer support to their children in more than just one way. For the sake of a child’s well-being, parents should develop a well-established bond with their children, and a parent should be devoted to their well-being. Now, the parent is also needed in order to supervise the children’s activities so that the children become less likely to “get off on the wrong track…” (McLanahan and Sandefur 22) First, parents offer academic support by helping their children with their schoolwork. According to the book, another way that parents show support in their child’s learning is by reading story books to their children. (McLanahan and Sandefur 8)

There are many books that can be just as beneficial to children as two parents can be to children. Two parent families are just as helpful as two authors. According to Princeton University’s website, Sara McLanahan is a professor of sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. She is also an author of many books and articles. Her most recent published and researched book was “Fragile Families and the Marriage Agenda,” which was published in 2005. Her latest book is now a few years old. The latest article that she wrote was titled: “The Mental Health of Parents with Infants. Interestingly enough, Sara McLanahan is also a single parent. Gary Sandefur is a professor and came in as a co-chair of the Sociology Department and was also part of the American Indian Studies Program at the University Wisconsin-Madison, according to the University’s website. Now, Sandefur provides his service as being co-chair of faculty administration and a member of the staff of Create the Future: The Wisconsin Campaign.Sandefur has co-authored four books.

In her review of Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, published in Christian Century Magazine, Hainsworth states that, “this is a child-centered analysis, and he moral emphasis is on the responsibility of adults to recognize that their decisions and interventions shape the lives of children for better or for worse. . These authors do well and strive to focus attention on what children are in desperate need of right now. Some readers may be concerned about whether or not this book blames single parents. Really and truly, it doesn’t. These authors turn to a different approach. A book enriched with plenty of statistics is a better way of providing data from a substantial number of nationwide studies. Consequently, McLanahan and Sandefur stress the importance of adults becoming familiar with decisions they may make along the way in order to structure the lives of their children for positive outcomes. She also says that the authors successfully explain single parenthood by mainly focusing on the needs of children. She sees this review as a valuable resource for parents, even though she praises the author which focused on what the children need. After reading the book: Growing up as a Single Parent, What Hurts, What Helps, by Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, one may strongly feel that this book should be recommended to adolescents as well as new parents who are about to begin to explore parenthood for the very first time. However, after reading this book, one may have learned that single-parenthood is less positive for the children’s sake than two parents who raise their children together. Works CitedMcLanahan, Sara and Gary Sandefur. Growing Up with a ingle Parent: What Hurts, What Helps. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994.Hainsworth, Deirdre K. “Growing Up with a Single Parent; What Hurts, What helps” – Book Review. Christian Century 7 Feb.1996.6 March 2008 <http://www.findarticles.com/mi1058/is n5 v113/ai_18023715/print>Headlee. Celeste. “Detroit Has Worst High-School Graduation Rate” NPR News McLanahan, Sara. Publications 20 Feb. 2008. http://www.princeton.edu/~mclanaha/publications.htm.

Sandefur, Gary. University of Wisconsin-Madison Sandefur to Lead Letters and Science. 13 Aug. 2004.20 Feb.2008. <http: //www.ssc.wisc.edu/cde/faculty/cr-sandefur.pdf.>


First sentence: Growing Up with a Single Parent, What Hurts, What Helps (Harvard University Press, 1994, 196 pgs.) by Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur informs readers that, whether a single parent is a divorced parent or an unmarried mother or father, the fact is that the overall outcome on a child’s well-being will not be as great as if a child had two biological parents

There is nothing wrong with short sentences. That first sentence exhausted me (the reader)

How about:

Growing Up with a Single Parent, What Hurts, What Helps (Harvard University Press, 1994, 196 pgs.) by Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur makes the case for raising children in a two-parent home. Their research proposes that the overall outcome of a child’s well-being will not be as great in a single parent home as in a home with two biological parents.
I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a book review or an essay on single parenting. If you have been asked to present your own personal views on the issue, ok, but if you have been asked to write an essay examining the issue you are being very one-sided and you need to look also at the benefits.

You have some confusion in the points you make in your essay and at one point you repeat the same sentence twice; once at the end of a paragraph and once at the start.

- Stop trying to mix up single/duel parent families with being married or not. You can be a married single parent or you can be an unmarried duel parent family. You seem to be implying that all single parents are unmarried and all duel parents are married in some places. Clarify your descriptions more carefully.

- all children have two biological parents (or they wouldn't exist) - you are speaking about whether they live with both biological parents or not. Does the book actually make any destinction between children living with two biological parents and children living with two parents where not both, or either, are biological, for example in adoption or with step-parents? Otherwise you may be bringing your own views into this rather than discussing the views of the authors.

At one part you state that the authors say that single parenting is 'perfectly fine' but that seems to contradict the rest of your essay. To present a balanced essay you should explore this further.

Some of the issues you are raising seem rather irrelevant as they are not a feature specifically of single parent families, so I don't understand what point you are trying to make (for example - single parents may be uneducated - but so can duel parents. Or the part about reading to children, are you saying single parent families don't do this?)

that the overall outcome on a child’s well-being will not be as great as if a child had two biological parents. - 'as great' confused me here - I think most readers will interpret this as 'as big as' rather than 'as good as'. In formal contexts 'great' isn't appropriate to use in the meaning of 'good'.

I also found the sentence about books being as useful to children as the authors confusing. I don't understand your point.

Quayle and the authors of the book agreed that having children without being married puts children at an even greater risk than those children in a two-parent family face. (1) Again, you are confusing being married with being a two-parent family - there are lots of unmarried two-parent families. A child can have unmarried prents AND be in a two-parent family - how do they fit in with that sentence? You need to re-phrase it. And at greater risk of what?
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Thanks I think it sounds better this way. Ashley