AS the 21st century edges closer, single parent Linda Johnson is
already described as the probable parent of the future.
Instead of being part of the traditional American family with
two married parents and children, Ms. Johnson is raising her two
daughters alone in the Boston area after her divorce.
A recent United States Census Bureau report identifying the
continuation of a major cultural shift in America, says millions of
single parents like Johnson are raising children by themselves. In
fact, almost 27 percent of American children live with a single
parent, and half of US children, or 32.3 million, now live in a
situation other than the nuclear family.
The American centerpiece of a family headed by married parents
with biological children has substantially decreased in the last 23
years. Stacy Furukawa, the author of the report, says, "We find
that 3 out of 4 kids now live with two adults or parents but not
their biological parents, and this is a new figure."
A number of factors have triggered the changes in families, none
more pivotal than the shift in cultural attitudes about births
occurring out of wedlock. Another 1993 Census Bureau report
indicates that even though the number of out-of-wedlock births
slowed a little in the 80's it has soared to 6.3 million in 1993
from 243,000 in 1960.
"It is clear that people would still like to have children
inside of marriage," says Kristin Moore, director of Child Trends,
an organization in Washington, which studies adolescents. She says
what's changed is the societal view "that it is morally wrong if
you don't marry, and your neighbors will not spurn you if a child
is born outside of wedlock."
For instance, 2 out of every 3 teenagers in the US who had
babies between July of 1991 and June of 1992 were not married,
according to the Census Bureau. Most live on welfare.
Statistics reflect one side of this moral shift, but not the
emotional and economic impact on women struggling as single
parents, or the quality of their lives.
"It was quite a challenge being a single parent from the
standpoint of logistics and exhaustion," says Johnson, who lived
on welfare, but has been employed now for several years, "and the
disadvantages of being a single parent definitely outweigh the
advantages, but my daughters are now teenagers, and I have a very
close relationship with them."
The Census Bureau also reports great differences in family
structure according to race. …