Published: 11th February 2019
A new research study conducted by Gingerbread – the charity for single parent families – and the University of Sheffield has found that contrary to popular belief, living in a single parent family does not have any adverse affects on the wellbeing of dependent children.
The research, which was undertaken as part of the University’s Crook Public Service Fellowship scheme, focused on three key factors of a child’s wellbeing which were ‘life satisfaction’, ‘quality of peer relationships’ and ‘feelings about their family’ – to which the children studied who were living or who have previously lived in a single parent household responded positively.
In 2017, the Office for National Statistics reported that single parent families represented more than 20 percent of families with dependent children in the UK – averaging at around 1.8 million single parent households in that year. Despite statistics that show single parent families have made up a huge proportion of all family types both in the UK and many other countries in the past 2 decades, there still remains much ungrounded scepticism and negativity surrounding the wellbeing of children who live in such families.
The report, spearheaded by Policy Officer at Gingerbread, Sumi Rabindrakumar, and researchers at the University of Sheffield, has been able to debunk some of the myths and stigmas attached to single parent households.
On average, children who have been in a single parent family at some point within their life report higher levels of life satisfaction compared to those who have never lived in a single parent family. The report also concluded that children who have lived or currently live in a single parent household tended to report less problematic relationships with their peers.
The study, which spanned over the course of six years, allowed researchers to capture data over a longer time period in order to gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of the impact of living and transitioning between various family types and their affect on a child's wellbeing.
Gingerbread’s Chief Executive, Rosie Ferguson, spoke on the matter at hand, stating that “our report with the University of Sheffield [...] 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”.
To summarise, the research study finds there is no evidence that the wellbeing of children living or who have lived in a single parent household is negatively affected by the family structure which they live in, with research even suggesting that these children may score higher in terms of life satisfaction, quality of peer relationships and feelings about their family compared to children who do not live in single parent families.
Moving forward, both policymakers and researchers alike need to do more in order to ‘challenge popular stereotypes’ and reflect the new and dynamic nature of family life in the 21st century. Public policy needs to be able to understand the life of a single parent as well as the ever-changing nature of households over time.
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