Nonwhite and white, rich and poor, born to an unwed mother or weathering divorce, over half of all children in the current generation will live in a single-parent family--and these children simply will not fare as well as their peers who live with both parents. This is the clear and urgent message of this powerful book. Based on four national surveys and drawing on more than a decade of research, Growing Up with a Single Parent sharply demonstrates the connection between family structure and a child's prospects for success.
What are the chances that the child of a single parent will graduate from high school, go on to college, find and keep a job? Will she become a teenage mother? Will he be out of school and out of work? These are the questions the authors pursue across the spectrum of race, gender, and class. Children whose parents live apart, the authors find, are twice as likely to drop out of high school as those in two-parent families, one and a half times as likely to be idle in young adulthood, twice as likely to become single parents themselves. This study shows how divorce--particularly an attendant drop in income, parental involvement, and access to community resources--diminishes children's chances for well-being.
The authors provide answers to other practical questions that many single parents may ask: Does the gender of the child or the custodial parent affect these outcomes? Does having a stepparent, a grandmother, or a nonmarital partner in the household help or hurt? Do children who stay in the same community after divorce fare better? Their data reveal that some of the advantages often associated with being white are really a function of family structure, and that some of the advantages associated with having educated parents evaporate when those parents separate.
In a concluding chapter, McLanahan and Sandefur offer clear recommendations for rethinking our current policies. Single parents are here to stay, and their worsening situation is tearing at the fabric of our society. It is imperative, the authors show, that we shift more of the costs of raising children from mothers to fathers and from parents to society at large. Likewise, we must develop universal assistance programs that benefit low-income two-parent families as well as single mothers. Startling in its findings and trenchant in its analysis, Growing Up with a Single Parent will serve to inform both the personal decisions and governmental policies that affect our children's--and our nation's--future.
Based on careful analysis of data from various national surveys...[this book is] the first systematic attempt to disentangle the effects of poverty from family breakdown across a range of problems afflicting children...By using sophisticated statistical techniques to control for such background characteristics as income and race, McLanahan and Sandefur show that, although growing up poor is very damaging to children, single parenthood is in itself severely injurious...The very richness of its analysis makes the book a powerful tool for social policy.
This clearly written and remarkably jargon-free monograph is highly recommended to all practicing physicians.
[This book] posits a view embedded in the authors' stated belief that 'children who grow up in two-parent families will do better, on average, than children who grow up with only one parent'...The strongest aspect of this book is the excellent job the authors do of sorting through theories and existing data in an attempt to explain why additional research is needed on single parenthood. Unlike some other earlier research accounts of the effect of family structure on child well-being, McLanahan and Sandefur clearly document the role of income, parenting styles, and the contribution of non-resident fathers as well as stepfathers to the child's social capital as explanations for children in one-parent families doing less well than children in two-parent families. The reader is not left wondering exactly how or why the authors take the position they present...Scholarly, thoughtful...[this book] includes information that is both important and timely given the welfare reform debate at the state and local level.
This book is a must read for concerned parents and policymakers. It reaffirms what the National Commission on Children said: the best way to help our children is to strengthen families. In addition to presenting compelling evidence about the challenges single parents and their children face, the authors include solid recommendations on ways to truly help children.
The concluding chapter of this short, clearly written book suggests sensible policy directions for the support of single-parent families by noncustodial parents, governments, and communities. A strength of this book is the clarity of the analysis...Highly recommended.
[This] is essentially a text which reports the findings of the authors' analyses of American survey data on the achievements of children from 'disrupted' families. As such it will be primarily of interest to researchers. Nevertheless, it is written in a style which undergraduate students will find very accessible. Moreover, data presentation is refreshingly clear; effective bar charts and simple tables appear in the main text, whilst more complex data displays are located in an appendix, along with a description of methodology.
Other authors have shown that a child growing up with a single parent suffers disadvantage at school. McLanahan and Sandefur, in this careful empirical analysis, demonstrate how this disadvantage occurs, particularly emphasizing the role of income and social capital. Moreover, they show what can be done about it--both by parents and by government. This book is a recipe for action.
Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur are addressing the single most important issue in American life: the effect of a family breakdown on children's well-being. Growing Up with a Single Parent puts the debate on an entirely new plane.
This book is by far the most comprehensive, balanced investigation of the effects of growing up in a single-parent family available today. It is certain to be a crucial resource in the continuing debates about the consequences of family change for children's well-being.
- 208 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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