Single parented families refer to families which have children who have not attained the age of eighteen years and are headed by a parent who has never been married, not remarried, divorced or widowed. In the United States of America, one out of two children lives within a setting of single parentage sometimes before attaining the age of eighteen years. In 2002, twenty million children were family headed by either a mother or a father according to an analysis done by the United States census bureau. This proportion of children is more that a quarter of the total children in the state. African American children are people who are aged eighteen and below, including their ancestor individuals who were brought to America as slaves from African countries beginning early in 1600. Within 69.9 million children in the state, African-American children comprise of fifteen percent. Annual poverty rates among African American hidden are three times that of non-Latino European American children, although the majority of poor children are of European ancestry. It has been so unfortunate for African American children especially after statistics provide that thirty percent of these children are single parented. This exposes such children to detrimental effects on schooling achievement, cognitive development and socio-emotional functioning instead of experiencing poverty on the occasional basis (Jeanne, 1997, p.22).
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The number of single-parent families in the United States has drastically increased. 11% of the children live under single parentage. In the 1970s, divorce was the most contributing factor. In 2002, single parentage rose to 28% which excluded cases of the biological parent and one step-parent. In the mid-twentieth century, single parenthood now came as a result of deaths of the spouse. From 2000, many Americans did not prefer marriage, leading to increased cases of single parenthood.
In the process of examining the qualities of African American families, researchers have found out that adolescent boys in nonmarried parents develop low self-esteem when compared to same families with the two parents. This discovery was made by the American psychological association which also recommended valuable role of African American father in raising boys at adolescent stages. Boy with both parenthood develops high self-esteem despite their family level of income and the nature of family functioning. According to the study, girls self-esteem had no effect on parental marital status. Within these families, gender differences are attributed to different socializing patterns of mothers and families. The self-esteem of African American children with both parents is relatively balanced between both sexes because of the socializing patterns of both parents are also balanced. When the father is absent, the balance is upset, leaving African American male in low feelings of self-esteem. The study also discovered differences between these families’ adolescents in response to the environment. Income perceived the quality of life for boys as compared to girls. This is because even if a boy is aged fifteen, he may feel that providing for the family may be his responsibility partly. If the income for the family is not adequate, African American boys at this stage perceive more problems because of their hypersensitivity (Vonnie, 2000, p.11).
The above research did not ignore the aspect of family functioning in African American single family. Self-esteem is equal in both genders when the family functioning is low but girls self-esteem increased when family functioning is high. As boys are sensitive to family income, girls are sensitive to the relationships between family members. In concluding, the researchers argued that self-esteem coupled with increasing quality of family functioning and extracurricular activities may buffer the effects of single parentage within African American families.
African American single parent children have faced several challenges throughout history. One of these problems is economic based. These families earn less than $30, 000 per annum when compared to other American and two parented countries. This economic challenge exposes the children to various problems. Economic difficulties lead to low levels of educational achievement, dropping out of school, becoming teen parents, conflicting with their parents, less supervised by adults and hence high probabilities of becoming truants. Because of the desperate life they are exposed to, they engage in drugs and alcohol abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, joining of gang groups and a doubled probability of going to jails. Children from these families frequently participate in a violent crime, committing suicide and therefore divorce in their adult lives. The above elements indicate that if African American single parent children are nit given attention by the government and other nongovernmental agencies, poverty will remain in these families as the families increase in number. What can be done right now is bringing up their children in an environment that give their offspring hope to become better families.
Equally striking is the racial differences in acquiring net financial assets. These assets specifically refer to liquid wealth sources for families immediate desires and needs such as bonds, stocks, accounts and savings (Lozoff, 2001, p.13).
During the 1990s, African Americans with the highest income levels possessed thirteen percent of the median net financial assets. This makes these families highly disadvantaged as they live in poor and isolated urban ghettos. There is the high limitation to occupational, educational ad social resources that can promote children’s development subjecting them to a plaque of high rate violence and crimes.
Because of neglecting these families, religion has been described as the adaptive and coping mechanism enabling African American single-parented children to transcend harshness and limitations within the social reality, thus trying to attach direction and meaning to collective and individual existence. These families view churches as sources of informal support, formal services, and moral guidance. Informal support may include financial assistance, companionship, help in times of illness, friendship, and advice and comfort. Formal services may compose of ministerial counseling, transportation, group vacations and outings and meals on wheels (Wilson, 1987, p.19). Church membership and religiosity promote self-esteem because of the perception that one is held in high regard by ongoing omnipotent divine, believers and other people, making the African Americans feel the essence of their presence in life. Religiosity also buffers psychological stress effects because a mother who seeks spiritual support distinguishes herself and children with stress resilience from the stress impaired. African Americans reside in European American extended family households. These extended families have close in relationships across and within generations with their members involved intensely in the reciprocal exchange of services, goods and ongoing emotional support. This is a clear impression that African American children who are headed by one parent are stress coping and problem-solving systems within the American society. Although there is a claim that interaction with extended family is beneficial in terms of supervision, monitoring and support, single parents exposed to abuse and segregation can never be comfortable and positive in life (Smelser, 2002, p.17).
Because of their historical egregious and virulent discrimination faced by single parent children of African Americans, it won’t be a surprise that these single parents are providing extensive ethnic and racial socialization than the other parents. African American single parents have been identified to talk frequently with their adolescents about ethnic and racial prejudice as a problem. They, therefore, preach messages of racial pride and cultural heritage more frequently than talking of racial discrimination. Among African American settings, messages to promote racial mistrust are comparatively minor elements of social socialization. Through research, this has been known to influence children’s social identity, racial stereotyping, school achievement and discrimination. These single parents believe that both group identity and racial discrimination protect mental or physical health in face of perceived unfair treatment and racial discrimination. Group identity describes the ideology that feelings of closeness in ideas create race linked self-image and one's self-identified the racial group (Tatum, 1997, p.15).
Racism, discrimination, migration, cultural influences, immigration, urbanization, segregation and historical influences have all joined efforts in shaping contemporary African American family functioning. The effect on these elements in America is catastrophic, and more so for the black community headed by a single parent. One in three male of African American child in their ages of thirty must have had a prison record, with two-thirds being high school drop outs. What is considered odd for this community is the long it will take for it address in a thoughtful and forceful way this utterly counterproductive and racially based biased situation. The virtual gulag of racial incarceration has not yet ended even after decades of undeniable racial progress. The circumstances that befall these single black families are turn out tragic day in day out. There is the lack of paternal support and discipline, hypocritical refusal of conservative politicians because of family values, a mandatory requirement for single mothers to work regardless of child care effects, recourse by male children to gangs in the name of parental substitutes. Hypersegregation of blacks ghettoes fabulous culture in the streets and lack of skills among the black men compared to the pay they demand. Even after racial bias has been eliminated in prison and judicial systems, disproportionate numbers of young black men have been incarcerated (Moss, 2003, p.14).
Political systems in the United States do not take into account the sufferings of single parented black children. Politicians argue that these children do not need any more redistribution policies amid in the endless and loudest cries of institutional racism. This is because it is now forty-three years now since civil rights act, educational establishment, corporate sector, and the political system made historical moves towards full inclusion of African American children in mainstream life. The key agenda for these reforms was promoting black independence, excellence in educational achievement, opportunity oriented economic policies, focus on black family responsibilities, rebuilding of black family structure and focus on ownership and entrepreneurship. The kind of ;political approach towards the African American children has made them thing as if they are disadvantaged, uneducated, dysfunctional, diseased and deprived. It is the high time that democrats, liberals, and progressives should sit and look up to help minorities. This population of children is proportionately afflicted by poverty and its corresponding symptoms of poor healthcare, income, and education. A single African American mother was spotted in Illinois quoting that America was built on their sweat, tears, and blood and thus America as a state owe them a great debt. On a very collective basis, African Americans involve themselves in politics most compared to the other groups. This indicated by high participation in elections and voter registration (Mamiya, 1990, p.23).
A report entitled African American single-parented children in Texas was released in October 2006. The report was describing inferior education, racial prejudice, and poverty but also including some improved factors surrounding children in the city. The project was sponsored by the Texas kids count program, conducted at the university of Texas and public policy priorities of Austin. The report was intended to serve as a tool for federal, state and local policymakers in struggling to improve the life of African children living in Texas. It covered socioeconomic, education and health conditions of these children as nationwide effort to improve the well-being of single parented families in all states. It was clearly stipulated that if improvement is not done, then Texans will have to pay enormous costs in return. This study made a lot of discoveries. First, more than twice as many African American unmarried teens are getting babies more frequently and in number compared to the rest of the population. Babies from this population are below-recommended birth weights, because of exposure to health risks during pregnancy. Again, twice as many African American babies die before first-day birth, signaling a high infant mortality rate. The teen violent death rate is still high for this population since 1999, despite the fact that many African American mothers are receiving prenatal care (Taylor, 1991, p.31).
Out of predictions of the existing data, the group stipulated that more than one in five births to African American are brought up to be a single teen. In response to the situation, the researchers said that African American communities possess various strengths including the care for neighborhoods, loving their families and schools with many programs for children. However, the most important were helping children succeed. For this to be accomplished, it was seen necessary to eliminate racism in the lives of African American children especially regarding access to juvenile justice, education, economic resources, political resources, housing and social resources. A good education is an essential tool for improving the odds in African American children with one parent, meaning that it should be given a top priority. Good instruction, high standards in curriculum and family involvement should not be ignored, as they assist in bringing up a health generation, thus successful adults. To do away with economic challenges, the group suggested the provision of financial support and incentives to African American entrepreneurs wishing to make business initiative within the African American community. It is also recommended for investment in programs to ensure health, safety, and well-being of African American children. Still, it is unique to support the family and social networks in order to cope with societal and economic pressures. Family networks ensure guidance and emotional support in the struggle with psychological, physical and socioeconomic challenges. Extended families should assist in working, encourage coping behaviors and reduce stress by providing and nursing positive role models. It is also good to internalize spiritual lifestyle to give a sense of purpose greater than self and empowerment provides the courage to deal with many challenges faced by the community (Tucker, 1995, p.10).
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