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The Stigma of Being a Single Parent

Updated on September 8, 2015

Many times when I was in elementary school, the teacher had to chastise the class for being loud and unruly. As a sensitive child, this really bothered me, because I was not being loud and unruly, yet I was being chastised along with the group.

Now, I feel like I am being chastised by society for being a single parent. Each single parent has his or her own story about how they came across being in this situation. Sometimes there were extenuating circumstances that were outside of his or her control, and putting them in a particular category without taking the time to understand these circumstances, and making assumptions about them is unfair. I am not going to go into my personal situation, but I think it is time that we stop chastising single parents and start supporting them.

People who write about today's society mean well when they quote statistics and link single parenting with words words such as:

  • family values
  • demise of today's society
  • dissolution of the American family
  • disappearing traditional family
  • breakdown of society
  • teen births
  • unwed mothers
  • unstable homes
  • broken families
  • benefits of two-parent families
  • moral degradation in America
  • illiteracy
  • drug use
  • single parent households
  • poverty
  • crime, incarceration, prison
  • divorce rates

They all mean well, and they probably aren't trying to blame or stigmatize single parents, but the result is the same. All these discussions tend to simplify complex topics. The net result of this conglomeration of articles is almost as if they are blaming the single parents collectively for being immoral, and causing drug use, illiteracy, poverty and crime.

Sometimes these attitudes are kept hidden in polite couching of terms, but are made apparent in having discussions with people. Single parents are sometimes a prime example of all that is wrong with America (and the world.)


Is a single mother less moral than a married mother? I don't think she is any more or less moral than a married mother.

Sure, an unmarried mother shows show evidence of premarital sexual activity, but many married women have also had premarital sex, as do unmarried women who don't have children. A single mother may have chosen not to have an abortion or let the child be raised by total strangers who may or may not have properly taken care of the child.

A divorced mother may have broken her vows of commitment, but there are many divorced women without children who not bear the stigma of divorce. In addition, this stigma does not take into consideration the reasons for the divorce. It is possible that there was abuse, neglect, drug addiction, incarceration, drama or domestic violence, that caused the divorce, and the mother may have felt that the children were better off without all that.

There may have been a death or a desertion. There may have been abuse or violence that caused the breakup of the family. One of the partners may have been lied to, and may have had grossly unrealistic expectations of the spouse.



There are many single parents who live in poverty. This makes sense. After all, there is generally only one adult earning money for the family. Women tend to be the custodial parent, and since they generally make less money than men, and women of childbearing age are at the beginning of their career ladders, it would make sense that the family may not be well off, and may even live in poverty. A big function of this is the lack of involvement from the other parent. If the other parent does not contribute to the well being of the child, in the form of child support, gifts, or time, then the custodial parent will have to bear the burden of not just her own share, but also his as well.

Remember though that there are also married parents who live in poverty. Also, when we speak of single parents, we compare them to married parents who both work. There are also married parents where one person does not work outside of the home. Usually in our comparisons, the nonworking partner stays home to take care of the kids. But in reality, the nonworking partner could be incarcerated, out having fun, spending all his earnings on addictions, or generally not interested in contributing to the household. He may even be using up resources that could otherwise be used for the children.


Statistics say that single parent households are more children who are juvenile delinquents and / or likely to become incarcerated. This is possibly due to the fact that the single parent is too busy working to put food on the table to spend the time teaching their children the values that they need and monitor their activities.

It could also be a function of the environment in which they live. If single parents live in poverty, they also are likely to be living in low income crime-ridden neighborhoods. There are bad influences everywhere the child turns, and the parent may not be able to keep her child away from them.


If the single mother had a child early and dropped out of school, she will be struggling with illiteracy herself, and may not know how to teach her child.

Single Parenting

Let's keep in mind though that there are a variety of reasons why a person winds up in a situation where she is raising the child or children herself. She may have abandoned by the partner. In fact, she should be complimented and supported because she is making the effort to do right by her children. It is the other partner, who we may not even know is a parent, who is causing the problem.

There are also many mature women who have made the conscious decision to have a child herself and have the financial ability and emotional stability to raise the child herself. Not all children from single homes are brought up in poverty, and not all of them go through the criminal system.

In fact, there are many women who have successfully raised law-abiding, respectful children who are assets to society.

Single parents are not the scrounge of society. They are simply the evidence of a system that is changing.

Comments: "The Stigma of Being a Single Parent"

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      Sanxuary 4 years ago

      I am surprised that there is a stigma associated with this. Who does not know a single parent? If anything I am surprised that anyone is still getting married. If you our a woman and never got married all that happened is that you never got to take all his stuff. That is the stigma of today if you ask me.