I have been scrutinizing the research on single parents and their children for more than a decade. I’ve learned lots of things, but perhaps the most important one is this: all those predictions you hear about how the children of single parents are doomed are grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong.
I included a chapter on the topic in Singled Out and have continued to write blog posts and other articles after the book was published. I thought that was sufficient. But the wording of the recent Supreme Court ruling sent me over the edge. While trying to make a positive case for same-sex marriage, Justice Kennedy egregiously put down families that do not include married parents. The claims he made were not just derogatory, they were inaccurate.
So it was time to do more. I put together a brief collection of 18 short chapters in a new book, Single Parents and Their Children: The Good News No One Ever Tells You. The chapters include popular blog posts I’ve written that have appeared here, in my other blogs, and in the Guardian. Two wonderful guest posts about independent parenting written by Tricia Parker are also reprinted in the book. Two more articles were inspired by very smart daughter of a single mother who was greatly disheartened by all of the shaming and stigmatizing aimed at the children of single parents.
The introductory chapter ends with this description of the contents of the book:
Part I of this book introduces some 21st century thinking about single parents and their children. Stereotypes are debunked with scientific research. The arguments are not just defensive, claiming that the children of single parents often do just as well as the children of married parents. There are also ways in which the children of single parents do better than the other kids. They may be better prepared for the future, too.
Part II calls out major publications for their stigmatizing of single parents and their children, and presents scientific rejoinders to the stereotyping. A bright, articulate, and accomplished high school student describes the pain of being assumed to be a delinquent and a failure just because she is the child of a single parent, and urges us all to do better.
The focus turns to the parents in Part III. In a pair of guest essays, Tricia Parker describes her experiences of what she calls “independent parenting” and how her initial anguish at parenting independently evolved into empowerment. A study linking single motherhood to compromised health is critiqued, as is the popular argument that in the workplace, women need to “lean in.” The book ends with bigger, broader conceptualizations of home and family that more accurately reflect the way we live now, in the 21st century.
My initial plan was to put together a book on family in the lives of single people. One section would be on single parents and their children and the other on single people who have no children. But the collection became way too long so I’ll publish the collection on single people with no kids separately, later this summer.