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Liberals and Single Parent Families

I happened to read an article this week in The Atlantic called "Why Is It Hard for Liberals to Talk About 'Family Values'?" I was intrigued because there is a sense of avoidance about this topic, especially on the left. 


The article proposed a few interesting answers about why people try to sidestep understanding the impact of growing up in a single-parent household. One possible answer that author Emma Green suggests is that the "intertwined history of left-leaning politics and feminism makes it difficult for leaders to call out the problem. 


Mainstream and more radical feminist groups are very uneasy with this topic because they are concerned about questioning women's choices.'" Green also argues that there is a historical aspect because liberals are viewed as "'challenging all sorts of tradition as being oppressive… because the left is so identified with those themes, it becomes tough to propose that the break-down of the family has not worked very well."


Ultimately, I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that more liberal community leaders like politicians and pastors do not want to offend people, especially in communities with higher rates of single parenthood. Meanwhile, there are many conservative proponents of "family values." 


Unfortunately, this hesitancy to address a social issue has stifled conversation about the topic. 

Many believe that lower marriage rates, increased births outside of marriage, and increased divorce rates signal a decline in adult commitment and harm to children (Manza et al., 2016). 


Essentially, "the weakening family values theory suggests that all of these changes have combined to undermine the family bonds needed to raise healthy children and create a stable society in the future" (Manza et al., 2016, p. 296), and there should be policies to encourage more traditional values. 

This view has some issues because it tends to ignore the positive benefits of more career opportunities and independence for women (Manza et al., 2016). However, single parenthood's significant effects on children should be addressed.


Generally, "children living with both biological parents fare better on average" (Manza et al., 2016, p. 304). It should be noted that this difference declines if the single-parent household makes as small or similar amounts of money as a two-parent household (Manza et al., 2016). 


Having more significant income and wealth to spend on children impact parenting; "older, more experienced single mothers, with more education and income, are simply better able to provide their children with the resources to grow and prosper than poorer, younger single mothers" (Manza et al., 2016, p. 307).


However, Manza et al. (2016) also note that "most single-parent households rely on a mother who is likely to earn less than her male counterparts, thus leaving most single-parent families to live with less income and face more economic insecurity" (Manza et al., 2016, p. 304). 


Regardless of income, it can be challenging for single parents because they may feel overwhelmed by juggling caring for the children, maintaining a job, and keeping up with the bills and household chores. 


Children growing up in a single-parent household are about twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime or be expelled or suspended from school; they are also a third more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without getting married, creating a cyclical effect.


Ultimately, while income is a significant factor in how children grow up, being raised by one parent is also very influential in how children fare and that impact should be addressed.

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