Single Parenting Research Paper

Research Paper on Single Mothers

Parenting by definition is the act or process of raising children. Single parenting on the other hand is exactly the same yet with only one parent raising her child or children. This paper will focus on single mothers and their journey living with the stereotype of her child being either rebellious, having emotional problems, or being a problem child and the typical notion of a single mother as being an incompetent parent.

Single parents can be classified into the following categories:
Solo parents as an outcome of: death
Solo parents-by-decision, resulting in: divorce; legal separation; church annulment; mutual decision to separate, with or without legal agreement; being abandoned or left by spouse; decision to leave spouse
Single-by-choice parents who: give birth to a child and choose not to marry; legally adopt own natural child or through adoption agency; choose to raise child or children of relatives.


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This research paper is meant to prove that single mothers, though parenting alone, can still raise good, honest, self-disciplined, kind, hard-working people, one who is secure in his/her own being and that pressure imposed by society on these individuals do not have a great effect in the nurturing of the child or even more so on the growth of the mother parenting alone.

Single Parents or Mothers in the Philippines
The number of single parents/ mothers in the Philippines has grown rapidly through the decades that have passed and this growing sector in the Philippines will continue to rise as society grows and changes through time. Because solo-parent families are now so prominent in society, they have become a vital subculture that will have to be accepted as a legitimate and valid unit of society (Ortigas 1996, 12).

Statistics of single parents
There are at least three million single parents in the Philippines, or 4 percent of the country's total 76.5-million population as of 2000, based on statistics collated from various official sources. That means there is a single parent in every group of 25 people, or in practically every medium-size office, or in every three or four households in a village. Assuming that every single parent has at least one child that brings to at least six million the number of citizens who may experience various degrees of prejudice because of their status. Based on the 1995 surveys of the National Census and Statistics Office (NCSO), there were 2.28 million Filipinos who were either widowed or separated from their spouses. The NCSO surveys do not show if those registered as single have children or may have regained their status after an annulled marriage. According to estimates by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), there were almost 500,000 unwed mothers as of 1997.

Relationship between single mothers and their child/children
Based on the interviews and books read by the researcher she found out that the relationship between mother and child in any kind of family is essential in the growth and well-being of the child; it is the bond that helps keep the family together. Establishing a relationship with your child requires communication; this is the best key in helping a relationship grow between a single mother and her child, where both child and mother will find a center in their relationship and where problems can find a solution and where compromises about things can be made. It is important that each one needs and wants to listen to the other to help each other communicate clearly and not to assume that the child hears the quiet pronouncements but to constantly let them feel the love and concern that one has for the child.

Parental Control
According to Bigner the control of children's behavior by mothers reflects the increased involvement of traditional instrumental qualities in the mothering role over the years. These traditional qualities include: domestic duties, meeting child's physical needs, training of the child, performs moral education and disciplines the child. With this the exercise of control on children's behavior come in, a mother's control requires the expression of assertiveness in making certain decisions about what controls to use. Mothers are known to use a certain kind of method of control, popularly known as love-oriented methods. This technique focuses on positive methods of control, such as praise and reshaping of children's behavior. Love oriented methods bring about children who have developed a strong sense of responsibility for their behaviors and to have feelings of guilt and sorrow when they have done something wrong.

Because a mother's role is usually confined to the caring of the child, a single mother's control goes over this to that of involving a power-assertive method, a method frequently used by fathers when love oriented methods fail. This method involves physical punishments and includes verbal behaviors such as yelling, making threats and commanding the child. Whilst a love-oriented method of control used in raising a child brings about a sensitive child; research done by W. Becker show that children who are controlled with power-assertiveness have reactions of increased aggression towards other children, resistance to cooperation with authority figures, and hostile active-out behaviors (Becker, 1964). A balance that can be found between the two kinds of methods of control and setting limits on their independence and freedom can help the child develop a positive self-concept.

Social rearing of children
Social rearing of children include teaching them to learn right from wrong, teaching them to be the kind of people who enhance rather than diminish the quality of life in our society and passing on to them a sense of morality, values and social responsibility (Aldrich 1991, 75). Single mothers being the sole parent of the child brings in a negative light in trying to establish a support system for the child to base his/her moral values on, but this does not mean that the child will no longer grow up to be a “good” citizen of this society. To be able to give the child/children a sense of security in his/her values a single mother needs to double her efforts in relating with her child at the same level. An example of this can be seen when she is disciplining her child/children, a single mother must be respectful and model the self-control, gentleness, and fairness she expects from her child/children. Showing the child/children how she respects other people and they way she treats other people, treats others as adults, how she treats and talks about others outside the family and how she leads her life is what is left etched in the child's/children's minds as they go on to grow up as adults. A mother can set herself as an example to her child as someone who managed to survive in a difficult world alone. Of all the factors that involve parenting, the good values instilled by a single mother on her child are the most important.

Effect of age-gap between mother and child
Conflict between a mother and her child is a natural phenomenon that can't be avoided. This issue of conflict between the generations is more commonly known as the generation gap and focuses on the differences in values, attitudes, and life-styles between adults and teenage children (Bigner 1979, 211) According to the researcher's findings this gap usually begins when the child is in the stage of adolescence and he/she is trying to find his/her sense of identity as a mature individual, because of this conflicts arise from both sides and would result in an exchange of violent verbal exchange or one of them storming out of the room. This viewpoint removes all responsibility for conflict from the parents and would generally focus on the child because he/she is experiencing a difficult adjustment period. A single mother does not in anyway find it harder to adjust to this because the effect of this generation gap comes from a central majority of the child's personal conduct and activities. A child going through adolescence may engage in activities that include radical clothing, haircuts and some activities may include the extremes of drugs, alcohol and sex. Because it is the child's decision to engage him/her in these activities, this kind of action may fall in the age-gap category whereas it is more of a problem that each and every parent in the world faces at a certain period of time. At the same time a single mother may find herself growing towards a new level of maturity in trying to understand her child's/children's actions.

Hardships of single parenting
Parenting in itself is tough and being a single parent is even tougher, a lot of factors are related to the perils of single motherhood and though everyone may think that the worst of them is not having enough money to raise a family, there are more that contribute to this.

Financial Problems
Financial problems are more or less the first problem that most one-parent families face. The single mother normally seen as the woman who works long hours at low wages struggling to support her family is the best thing to visualize, but there are different kinds of problems for different single mothers and some of them don't even have this problem. There are many single mothers who are coping well with their finances. There are fathers who willingly pay for their child's/children's education and needs and mothers who are self-sufficient who are capable of making the ends meet. Some have well-paying professional jobs, while some do not (McCoy 1987, 149). Because financial problems are given so much importance by society single mothers have been pushed to do better in regards to their income and they have. Based on the research done by the researcher, single mothers now have better jobs with adequate income enough to support her family.

Single mothers seen as “socially unacceptable”
Single mothers experience negative attitudes and support from her peers and society, she is looked down upon and pitied and seen as immoral. Single parents, especially the unmarried or separated women, are silently suffering from discrimination in many aspects of daily life and moreover this discrimination passes down to her child/children. Even with the fast growth of single parents in the Philippines, society still cannot seem to grasp the fact that there are women today that would choose to bring a child into the world alone. Single mothers are just waiting for the recognition they deserve for doing the kind of child rearing they do and not be recognized for being an “immoral” woman looked down on by the rest of society.

The need of fatherly advise and guidance
This problem is more common for single mothers with sons, when their son reaches puberty the mother is unable to relate to her son especially in the subject of sex and the changes in his body. A young adolescent boy going through puberty is often in need of a fatherly figure to find his own identity as a man and when the father is absent, the child is more withdrawn from his peers and has difficulties in developing his own positive personality. This is when the need for a father figure must be recognized back into the family or in the rearing of the child, in the event that there is no father figure to guide the child, alternative models of men of good moral and good stature can be a substitute to help the child in finding his identity (Ortigas 1996, 88). Based on the interviews conducted by the researcher with daughter's of single mother's, she can say that the need for fatherly advice with daughter's is sometimes more of the mother's need, the single mother finds trouble when her daughter, because of the absence of a father will most likely be more engaged in relationships with boys/men in trying to find the father figure in them, so in turn the need for the fatherly advise to come in is crucial and the love of a father felt by the child.

Handling peer-pressure on their child/children
Based on the researcher's own experience, having a single mother for a parent is enough pressure for a child to live with, the constant taunts of other children on her child increases the risk that her child could turn to alcohol or drugs to escape from the pressure of his/her peers. In the age we now live in where sex, drugs and alcohol is a constant variable in a teenager's life it is hard to handle the kind of pressure that is put on a single mother in trying to keep her child/children away from these and the pressure put on their children by society and more so on the child/children who find themselves lost and see drugs and alcohol as a way to relieve themselves of their pain and of the pressure from their peers. Letting the child/children know that there is someone who loves them and cares for them helps in keeping peer-pressure off and raising her child/children with good moral values set by examples is a contributor in the child's security where he/she can feel that he/she does not need to follow the trend the world is setting. If the child is comfortable in his/her own being and knows his/her own identity, the chances of the child succumbing to peer-pressure are low.

The child/children going through their resentment stage
On the information gathered by the researcher from her interview's she has come up with the theory that the separation loss of a child from either father or mother brings about resentment, when a child reaches the age where he/she starts to understand the situation his/her parents are in and where he/she is in, unpleasant feelings start to arise and the child/children start to withdraw and have emotional setbacks and experience loneliness and anxiety and they have difficulty dealing with the separation or the loss of a parent. A child is also likely to put the blame of separation on himself/herself; this is when the mother must learn how to listen to her child and be sensitive towards his/her feelings and help the child recover from the loss and replace the anger with love.

Through interviews conducted by the researcher, she has gathered information to say that every single-parent family is unique from the other; each and every family has its own problems and situations that they have to go through and live with.

Julie Lopez is 28 and still a single mother. She was 19 when she got pregnant and the man that she was then dating did not like the idea that she was going to have a baby; after she gave birth he paid for half of the hospital bill, gave money for the first month's support and never looked back again. And to this day she is still a single mother to her daughter Michelle and supports herself and her daughter with her hard earned money from a bank that she works in. Julie's first problem was figuring out a way to make it in the world with only as much as 2,000 pesos in her pocket and nothing else. Because she wasn't able to finish college Julie could not get a job immediately to support her new little family, but because of her determination to support herself and Michelle, she put herself through night school while going to work in a little fast food chain during the day. She graduated after 5 years with a degree in business and was able to get a job at a bank as a teller, and from there she worked herself up the ladder. With her studying and working at the same time one of Julie's biggest problems was time management; the time her school and work demanded from her hindered Julie from spending quality time with Michelle. Another problem was when Michelle was 7 and she began to ask questions about who her father was, where he was and why he wasn't with them. Julie's immediate reactions were shock and fear – shock because her 7-year old has now actually asked about her father and fear because she was afraid that her daughter would blame her for her loss, resent her for it and in the end put the blame on herself. According to Julie the best way to tell a child about separation or divorce is by making them feel loved and explain to them gently what had happened, to make sure to emphasize on the fact that it was not their fault and that it was a mutual decision. This way she said, the child does not feel like her father does not love her or that he abandoned the family. With everything that she went through Julie did not let the fact that she was a single mother get her down and not try to earn a living; she went to school and finished what she had started before she got pregnant and now is a successful banker. Her daughter Michelle now 9 years old is going to a private school for girls and is an honor student and one of the top 10 students in her class. Julie made a point when she said that: ”Life is not always going to be hard; if you hit the bottom the only way to go is back up, if it is a hard struggle then it will only make you a stronger person. Don't listen to the negative of others; unless they have walked in your shoes they do not know what it is like to live your life.”

Regina Reyes is a single mom; she became a single parent when she made the painful decision of annulling her marriage to her ex-husband 7 years ago. She chose to be a single mother because of the violence that was happening inside their home, her husband was very much into chronic substance abuse, verbal abuse and irresponsible decisions. She no longer believed that the environment she was in was ideal for her 2 girls – Lauren and Alyssa. She left her husband and lived with her parents again for another year until she could get back on her own feet again. Her life changed instantly after the separation, she had to start nurturing her 2 daughters and teaching them about life on her own and the painful process of telling them why she and their father could not get back together again. Her children surprisingly took to the changes very well; they adjusted well and were emotionally healthy. Both her kids are now in high school and are happy and loving teenagers who are enjoying life and learning new things as they go through adolescence. They see their father once every 3 months and still have a good relationship with him. The bitterness between mother and father did not pass down to that of the children's relationship with their father. The mother has kept communication between father and daughters' open since the divorce.

At the age of 26 Lea Turner faced the demands of parenting alone when she gave birth to her second son and the child's father left them. Though she wasn't a single parent for the first 2 years that she was a mother to her first child, what she went through with her second child was very different. Having a 2 kids and a job was hard for her, she had to juggle her work schedule and her quality time with her children all the time that sometimes she just wanted to give up and because the only support she got from her sons' father was money for their education, the rest of parenting was left to her. Giving her children the freedom to do things on their own was the biggest problem Lea faced, because her husband left her the hold she had on her sons were tighter than ever because of the fear that they would leave her as well. Because of the grip she had on her sons, they began to rebel and do things their own way and not listen to their mother; the tighter she held on to her kids, the more rebellious the got. This was when she realized she had to loosen her grip and allow her children a little independence and because of this move, her sons learned how to respect her more and they also realized that they did not need all the freedom in the world and they learned how to respect and follow the limits their mother had placed on top of the independence she granted them. Lea allowed her children to make their own decisions and choices on what to do with their lives and to also make their own mistakes so that they could learn from them. This made way for her children to have a sense of control over their lives and the increasing power of peer pressure on her children was no longer a problem for her sons because her prior way of disciplining them lead to self-control over themselves. According to Lea giving a child a sense of control over themselves and their lives also builds up a child's self-esteem. The problem of not having a father figure to look up to while growing up was not much of a problem for Lea because her father was always around for her kids when they needed advice from a man or a father. Her first born is now in the United States working for an IT company while her second son is in his last year in college.

Father, mother, and children. The picture of a perfect family. However, the number of Filipino households headed by single mothers has increased through the years. This is because many single parents believe that raising children on their own is preferable to living in a bad marriage that children are better off than if they spent their growing-up years hearing their mother and father exchange angry words, or worse, even hurt one another physically - that this would actually do more damage and have a more traumatic effect on their children. Ultimately, they feel that just because there's a man in the house doesn't mean that he's a good father.

On the other hand, not all single mothers sprang out from failed marriages. There are some that are widowed, many teenage unwed mothers, and those who became single
mothers by choice. Much controversy surrounds these women and is constantly being
attacked by conservative Filipinos.

Being a parent is tough, or even more so when one is raising a child single-handedly. Single mothers elicit a lot of awes and are regarded as modern day heroes. These women face significant difficulties, not the least of which is financial hardship. Furthermore, the role of a single mother is daunting, demanding and frequently requires extra measures of patience, strength and faith. But then, these mothers also know the joy and thrill of success one can have when their children grow up to be well-balanced, stable, successful and happy individuals.

Not surprisingly, many people believe that kids raised by single mothers are destined for trouble have difficulty in school, emotional problems, drug and substance abuse. While these may be true for some, many single mothers will disagree. They believe that their children have even learned more valuable lessons in life. Much of the potential for success in single-parent households chiefly relies on the emotional stability and maturity, mental health and character of the parent and not on the number of parents present. Moreover, with enough love, support and guidance from the single mother, children can and will equally be successful as those raised with two parents.

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Multiple aspects compose single-parent households. Some social impacts include diminished social capital for children, education, socioeconomic factors, potential health and psychological concerns, the criminalization of fathers, and abuse of mothers. This article provides an overview of these multiple impacts through a sociological lens. Applications will be presented that describe impacts of single-parent households on general society. Issues will be offered that present an overview of the benefits of the single-parent household. A conclusion will be offered that supports the need for future research into each of the variables composing the single-parent household.

Keywords Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; No Fault Divorce; Occult Injuries; Single-Parent Households; Social Capital; Social Disorganization Theory

The Single-Parent Household


According to Cunningham and Knoester (2007) the number of single-parent families in the United States has increased significantly since the 1970s. Moreover, the fastest growing family type in the United States is the single-parent family, which by 2010 constituted about 30 percent of all families with children, according to the 2012 US Census Statistical Abstract. Single-mother households with children represented more than 8 million households or approximately 79 percent of single-parent families. In addition, the number of single-father households more than tripled between 1980 and 2010. In 1980, single-father families made up roughly 2 percent of all families with children, with less than 700,000 households. By 2010, the number of single-father households had reached 2.2 million, or about 6 percent of families with children.

Children are incapable of choosing the circumstances of their childhood and adolescence. Weitoft, Hiem, Haglund, and Rosen (2003) argued that "childhood family background still seems to be an important predictor of a person's life-chances as an adult. Moreover, in the second half of the 20th century, growing up with one parent is increasingly common" for children in the post-industrial world (p. 289). In researching the multiple impacts of the single-parent family, researchers have assessed the implications of "parental achievement, conduct, psychological adjustment, social competence, and health" (p. 289). Weitoft et al. (2003) further concluded that children and adolescents from single-parent households demonstrated higher propensity toward “psychiatric disease, suicide or suicide attempt, injury and addiction” contrasted with those in two-parent households. Specifically, “boys in single-parent families had higher risks than girls for psychiatric disease and drug-related disease, and they also had a raised risk of all-cause mortality” (p. 294). Additional research indicates that the multiple impacts of single-parent households on children are numerous and complex.

Effect on Social Capital

Before Weitoft et al.'s (2003) findings were reported, Coleman (1988) argued that the most prominent element of "structural deficiency in modern families" is the single-parent family (p. 111). In his research, Coleman (1987) identified the ideal situations in which social capital is accumulated in relation to family situation. He suggested that “a number of influences linked to the industrialization and modernization of societies meant that the family in its modern form is low in social capital when compared with formations in earlier times” (Seaman & Sweeting, 2004, p. 175). To initiate further understanding, social capital has been described as “a characteristic of the relations between people” (Seaman & Sweeting, 2004, p. 174). Social capital advantages occur when trust and reciprocity allow for access to resources such as human and cultural capital that already exist within the community or social network (Coleman, 1988). Bourdieu described social capital as both a quality and quantity of relationships: "first, the social relationship itself that allows individuals to claim access to resources possessed by their associates, and second, the amount and quality of these resources" (Portes, 1998, p. 3-4). In this understanding, "social capital is something possessed by individuals that gains its strength in the aggregate of social networks" (Seamen & Sweeting, 2004, p. 174). Research into social capital and young people's outcomes also focuses on education. Coleman (1988) presented data showing “higher school drop-out rates for pupils with a single parent, several siblings and no maternal college expectations” (Seamen & Sweeting, 2004, p. 176).

Aquilino (1996) (cited in Moore, Vandivere, & Redd, 2006, p. 51) indicated that "among children who were born to unmarried mothers, and those who grew up with a single parent or in a step-family were less likely to complete high school than those who were adopted or who transitioned to living with two biological parents." Another study indicated that, for white youths only, a larger portion of childhood spent in a two-parent family was associated with lower probabilities of high school dropout, marijuana use, and teen parenthood (Hauren, 1992). Cleveland (2003) reported that "adolescence may be the most important time to consider the effects of neighborhoods on risk behaviors, such as aggression and delinquency" (p. 212). Social disorganization theory explains that the higher levels of delinquency, crime, and other behavioral problems in structurally disadvantaged neighborhoods are due to lower levels of informal social controls caused by these disadvantages (Case & Katz, 1991; Sampson, 1997; Sampson & Groves, 1989).

The Two-Parent Family Advantage

Adolescents who receive parenting that simultaneously protects them from neighborhood dangers and cultivates opportunities outside the neighborhood can avoid negative outcomes (Furstenberg, 1993). By providing adolescents with consistent emotional support and discipline, effective supervision, and close emotional ties, cohesive families can often overcome neighborhood disadvantages (Sampson & Laub, 1994). Moreover, Saylor, Boyce, and Price (2003) indicated that "family variables in the first months of a child's life including low income, single-parent household, and high parenting stress were significantly correlated with behavior problems appearing at 7.5 years of age" (p. 175, Abstract). They concluded that "it appears that being in households which are financially secure and have two parents may minimize the likelihood of later behavior problems, even in low birth weight youngsters with known neurological insults" (p. 188).


Primary applications of the impact of single-parent households include:

• Education,

• Socioeconomic factors,

• Potential health and psychological concerns,

• The criminalization of fathers, and

• Abuse of mothers


Studies in the United States and Britain have found that educational attainment is related to family structure (Zimiles & Lee, 1991; Furstenberg & Hughes, 1995; Teachman et al, 1996; Sweeting et al, 1998). Marriage is positively associated with education and employment. Education, employment status, race, age, marital status, and number of children are also associated with psychological well-being (Cunningham & Knoester, 2007). Children who were born to unmarried mothers or those who grew up with a single parent or in a step-family were less likely to complete high school than those who were adopted or who transitioned to living with two biological parents (Aquilino, 1996).

In addition, low parental educational attainment is a risk factor for poor cognitive development (Jackson, 2003; Roberts et al., 1998), and for not completing high school (Haveman et al., 1991). Mothers' educational attainment has also been negatively associated with aggressive behaviors among adolescents (Kowalski-Jones, 2000) and teen childbearing (Afxentiou & Hawley, 1997; Manlove et al., 2000). According to each of these studies, education can directly be impacted by living in single-parent households.

Socioeconomic Factors

According to Weitoft, Hiem, Haglund, and Rosen (2003),

The socioeconomic situation of children in families with only one adult was different from that of children in families with two adults. More single parents than couples were unskilled manual workers, low-grade non-manual workers, and people without an occupation, whereas couples were more likely than single parents to be high-grade or medium-grade non-manual workers (p. 291).

Additionally, women with low educational status, which was reported to be highly correlated with socioeconomic status, have a higher risk of being a single mother through separation than do mothers with high education. Weitoft et al (2003) also believe that the "style of living in a large city moves toward an increase in the number of single parents, rather than the idea that becoming a single parent leads to urban migration" (p. 291). In addition, twice as many single parents as couples received unemployment benefits.

According to Laasko (2004), in terms of custodial and non-custodial parental responsibilities, financial contributions have often been seen as “a key factor in explaining both mothers' and fathers' behaviors and the frequency of visits with their children. As stated by Lin and McLanahan (2001), fathers are likely to demand more time with their child in exchange for financial renumerations. Teitler (2001) pointed out that academic and public interest in contributions of fathers, until recently, has been limited to their role as breadwinners. As a result, there has been an increase in child support payments and concomitantly a larger number of parenting plans established (Grail, 2002)” (p. 134). Moreover, Primus (2006) indicated that "an examination of trends since 1979 suggests that periods of economic recession and expansion affect child living arrangements. In general, economic slowdowns tend to lead to a reduction in the proportion of children living with married parents, an increase in cohabitation, and an increase in single parent households" (p. 716). All of these factors are indicative of socio-economic efficacy and corresponding impacts on single parent households.


Head Injuries

Rubin, Christian, Bilaniuk, Zazyczny, and Durbin (2003) statistically reported that among children with head injuries, 72 percent came from single-parent households, 37 percent had mothers whose age was less than 21 years, and 26 percent had a history of prior child welfare involvement in their families (Abstract). They wrote, "Head injury is the leading cause of death in abused children under 2 years of age, and early detection of head injuries can limit significant morbidity and mortality" attributed to the injury. "Multiple investigators have shown that most children with inflicted head injury have evidence of other occult (hidden) injuries, including fractures, at the time they present for medical care" (p. 1382). Rubin, et al. further wrote, "Given the importance of confirming child abuse and influencing safety recommendations before medical discharge, we believe the finding of such a high prevalence of occult head injury in this study should influence guidelines regarding screening of this population" (p. 1383). Based on this study, the researchers stated, "Our finding of a relatively high prevalence of occult head injury in this cohort suggests the need for universal screening of similar high-risk abused children" (p. 1386). Additional health issues also exist for targeted groups, such as higher propensities toward obesity and psychological issues.


Epidemiological studies have indicated that the "prevalence of obesity in the United States is on the rise" (Mokad et al, 1999; Trojano & Flegal, 1998 as cited in Gable & Lutz, 2000, p. 293). "According to the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, rates of adult obesity has increased from 25% in the 1970s to 33% in the 1980s" (FASEB, 1995; Kuczmarski, Flegal, Campbell & Johnson, 1994, as cited in Gable & Lutz, 2000, p. 293). Obesity is associated with chronic disease and harmful health conditions; the growing incidence of obesity is a serious public health issue. Research indicates that demographic characteristics of the family also show associations with food consumption, food preparation, and food availability. The structure of the family can directly...

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