Child well-being in single-mother families

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002 Jan;41(1):75-82. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200201000-00014.


Objectives: Children from single-mother families are at increased risk of psychosocial morbidity. This article examines the strength of association between single-mother family status and child outcome, both alone and controlling for other sociodemographic and personal (maternal/family) variables.

Method: Data from the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth Cycle 1 (1994-1995) were used. Children aged 6 to 11 years in single-mother and two-parent families were included (n = 9,398). Child functioning measures included social impairment, psychiatric problems, and math score.

Results: Single-mother family status on its own is a significant predictor of all child difficulties, but the explained variance is limited and the effect size decreases when other variables known to influence child functioning are included. Household income, a sociodemographic variable, is inversely associated with social impairment and positively associated with math score. Hostile parenting and maternal depression are the personal variables most strongly associated with social impairment and psychiatric problems. Children in single-mother families where there is hostile parenting are at significantly increased risk of psychiatric problems.

Conclusions: The results suggest that children from single-mother families develop difficulties for the same reasons as children from two-parent families. Specific interventions for single-mother families may be warranted in the areas of parenting and other areas of concentrated risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Single Parent / psychology*
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors