Comparative Study of Children's Adjustment in Intact and Single Parent Families

By Sohail, Mughera; Shamama-tus-Sabah, Syeda | Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research, Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

Comparative Study of Children's Adjustment in Intact and Single Parent Families


Sohail, Mughera, Shamama-tus-Sabah, Syeda, Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research


Family is a system where all family members have interdependent relationships and behaviors (Hetherington & Parke, 1993). Main functions of family are to satisfy and to facilitate reproduction, economic services, social order, socialization, and emotional support (Berk, 2003). Family is the most important universal institution for rearing up children and plays a central role in the socialization of child (Santrock, 2001). Family environment not only provides the earliest and sustained source of social contact for children but also provides better understanding of child in family (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2002). Family environment has two interrelated components: Family atmosphere which is a combination of social, economic, and psychological factors that influence the child's development in family environment; and family structure that shows the composition of family unit. Main family structures are intact family, extended family, adoptive family, gay and lesbian parent family, step-parent family, and single parent family (Berk, 2003; Bilal, Tariq, Aleem, Shabbir, & Perveen, 2013). The focus of this paper is on intact and single parent family structures and their impact on children's development.

Single parent families result from separation, divorce, death, or unwed parenthood. Number of one-parent families has quadrupled in United States since 1960 (Harvey & Pauwels, 1999). Single parent families differ from intact as they lack one parent figure either mother or father. Single or intact families may further be grouped as nuclear or extended, though, single parent family if mother-headed has lesser chance to live as nuclear in Pakistani society. The extended family is a household that consists of parents, their children, and other relatives who live in proximity with each other. The extended family has an important role in providing childcare support (Caparas, 2011). Nuclear family is comprised of only parents and their children (Berk, 2003; Bilal et al., 2013).

The number of single parent families due to divorce is increasing both in West and in Pakistani society. In 1998, four out of five U.S children of single parent families were headed by their mothers (Lugaila, 1998). In Pakistan divorce rate is also increasing. According to council divorce register, the total number of registered divorce has increased from 98 cases in 1995 to 314 in 2005 (Hassan, 2011). The mortality rate of adult male per 1,000 in Pakistan is 189.3. Either, it is death or divorce, growing up in single parent family has negative consequences for young children as compared to their counterparts. Research has shown that children living in single parent families show higher levels of externalizing and internalizing problems as compared to children from intact families (Bray & Hetherington, 1993; Hassan, 2011).

Keeping in mind the adverse impact of death/divorce on children's development, we were interested to find out the effects of such circumstances on young children. Middle childhood is a developmental period that extends from about 6 to 11 years of age, approximately corresponding to the elementary school years (Santrock, 2001). At this stage, children acquire the skills of writing, reading, and arithmetic, and they are exposed and experience the world at larger scale. Achievement becomes the central theme of child and their self-control increases (Santrock, 2001). In middle childhood, children become more balanced, realistic, comprehensive, and conscious about their self. unquestionably, children need the guidance and support of both parents as they try to meet the unique challenges of this particular age. Parents provide sole relationship to their children in their early years (Hetherington & Parke, 1993). It is important to note that mutual relationships of parent not only influence their own lives but their children as well. Parents provide physical and emotional support and comfort, and therefore, their dual participation is very important for household chores, which allow both parents to interact more playfully and pleasurably with their children (Santrock, 2001). …

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