The University of Utah compared 99 married-couple households to 99 single-parent households. Both samples had pre-school children.
The father-absent households were measurably different. The first note of difference was in the single Mom. Mothers who were divorced were significantly “more hassled.” They reported more “negative life events” along with “significantly greater negative (emotional) effects” than did women from intact homes. The divorced, single-parent Moms were “overburdened, stressed, depressed, and hassled,” due to the press of issue they were forced to carry alone. Those issues included “economic stability, their own general well-being, the daily demands of a preschool child.”
In addition, the single Moms reported more behavioral problems with their preschool kids than thier counterparts from intact homes.
A separate study of 60 households at the University of Nevada, Reno, indicated that kids from single-parent homes run by Moms were significantly more inclined to “lie, destroy property” and associate with other children who demonstrated behavioral problems. These “troubled children” were not teens. They were 6-10 year old children.
The study analyzed the pattern of child-parent interaction in the home. The kids challenge Mom. Mom becomes agitated. Her stress evokes more acute negative behaviors in the child. Mom is now experiencing even more stress. She is alone. There is no reinforcement, no father to step in and stand with her. She is simultaneously nurturer and disciplinarian. The strain is what researchers called “a structural problem” in a single-parent home. One resolution is an extended family that shares the parental burden. A better one – is family life the way God designed it.
The American Family Association, New Research: Family in America (May, 2000: Mom’s Divorce Stress Hurts Kids, pp. 8-9).