Opinion | Raising Kids in Single-Parent Households

Opinion | Raising Kids in Single-Parent Households

To the Editor:

Re “The Rise of Single-Parent Families Is Bad for Kids,” by Melissa S. Kearney (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 20):

Ms. Kearney does little more than moralize, concluding that single parenthood is “hurting our children” because children “do better when they are raised in two-parent homes.” She condescendingly explains how it is “a simple fact of math” that one-parent families have less income than two-parent families while ignoring the existence of child support laws.

What Ms. Kearney is missing is that the steep rise in single-parent families could be due to the fact that women did not even have a viable option of being single parents only a few decades ago. They would not have been able to pursue a stable career that could support their children, and definitely could not rely on high-quality, publicly supported child care.

While one could argue that those things are not attainable enough now, it’s all relative. There are more financial opportunities for women and support for parents than in the past, so people can begin to design the healthiest romantic and family structure that works for them. That’s a good thing.

As a single parent myself, I think about what makes the life I enjoy possible: financial security through a union job, child support, universal prekindergarten, quality health care, a community with great babysitters as neighbors and access to homeownership.

With these opportunities and support in place, I’m able to raise my child in the happiest home of my own design, with agency to decide whether a partner is a net positive. The focus should be less on defining the ideal family structure and more on supporting all parents so that no one stays in a marriage out of necessity.

Allison Rasko
Washington

To the Editor:

Melissa S. Kearney presents the financial discrepancies experienced between two-parent families and single-parent families as the primary cause of poorer outcomes for the single-parent children.

Of potentially equal significance is the psychological experience of a single parent. A co-parent offers support and may ameliorate adverse behaviors of one parent toward their children.

An alliance between parents allows both to provide and develop appropriate responses to the developmental needs of their children in a mutually supportive fashion.

Single parents do not have this. They must make the difficult decisions in raising children alone. For many this will not be an issue for either parent or child, but for others it can be a source of tension. This may be manifested in the children’s school performance or later in life.

Sidney Weissman
Highland Park, Ill.
The writer is a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

To the Editor:

Melissa S. Kearney believes that “surely we as a society can openly recognize the advantages of a two-parent home … without stigmatizing single parents and their children,” yet even in her essay arguing for this she’s unable to do so. Her essay does nothing but stigmatize single-parent families, mine included (I am college-educated, for the record — there are, in fact, many of us).

Surely The New York Times could have found someone to present this perspective with more sensitivity and an ounce of understanding of the complexities and variations among single-parent households. We are not a monolith.

I would write more, but I don’t have time — I’ve got to figure out what I can do to make sure my son does not “get in trouble in school or with the law,” as Ms. Kearney says is more likely growing up in a home without a dad.

Sarah McKaig
Santa Monica, Calif.

To the Editor:

President Biden has already found a solution to child poverty without any need to address so-called “two-parent privilege.” It’s not another parent, a ring or family values, as Melissa S. Kearney seems to maintain. It’s financial support in the form of expansions to the child tax credit and earned-income tax credit. However, they have expired, contributing to child poverty more than doubling in 2022.

Gayle Gubman Riesser
Lawrenceville, N.J.

To the Editor:

What is missing from the article is the fact that 80 percent of the single-parent families have a woman as head of household. The question that is not answered in the article is why are women raising a family without the father of the children present in the household?

Granted that some husbands are not good partners or providers, and may be abusive, but does that explain the entire 80 percent? The article covers many aspects of how to improve the quality of life for single-parent families, and the disparities between the quality of life in single-parent and two-parent families, but it does not drill down on why single-parent families are on an explosive rise.

Edward Frost
Ipswich, Mass.

To the Editor:

My thanks to Prof. Melissa S. Kearney. For teachers like me, the difference in student attendance, achievement and behavior in students from two- versus one-parent homes is stark and blazingly obvious. Shame on us for ignoring what’s in front of us, and kudos to those brave enough to share unpopular truths.

Christine Allen
Dublin

To the Editor:

With all due respect, I don’t agree with Melissa S. Kearney’s analysis. In my many years as an elementary school teacher I saw plenty of two-parent families with difficult children as well as the well-behaved and competent ones from single-parent homes.

Many children are better off without two adults who are constantly fighting and making a household filled with strife. Look around at the many famous individuals from the arts to politics who have come from one-parent homes and thrived.

What needs to be done is not condemn those who are unable or unwilling to be part of a two-parent family and instead spend money to fix the root of this: poverty, along with lack of education, parenting skills training, job training, affordable health care and child care. Improve these things and children might grow up to be better people as well as better parents.

Daina Schuman
Stamford, Conn.

To the Editor:

While there are some valid points in this Opinion piece, such as the need for more governmental support for lower-income single-parent families, I disagree with the premise that single-parent families are bad for kids.

As a single adoptive mother I have raised my child on one income and have not received any governmental support. I ensured that my child had day care so that I could work full time.

My child has not suffered any of the detriments cited in this piece and is in fact earning a higher income than I had. I doubt that I am the only single parent who has raised a child to be a successful, productive, well-rounded, intelligent and secure young adult.

I fail to see how a dual-income, college-educated, married couple is the only good way to raise a kid.

Regina M. Adducci
Bethel, Conn.

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