• Sun. Apr 2nd, 2023


Feb 10, 2023
By Chief Dr. Onyekpeze, F.A
Mommy, when is daddy coming home”. It’s a question most mothers hear at least once a day.
Increasingly, mothers have to tell their children that daddy is never coming home, or at least, not coming home to stay.
The family is the most basic of all social institutions, characterized by the fact that it is a comparatively permanent group related by ancestry, marriage or adoption. Its members live together and form an economic unit and its adult members are responsible for the young.
In traditional, preindustrial societies, the extended family is most functional. Here, more than two generations of the same kinship line live together and share in the responsibilities for child rearing. They also share in other tasks such as farming, building and smithing. The extended family usually serves as a self-contained productive unit.
Over the past many years, however, there has been a major, worldwide change in family patterns, with the extended family system collapsing and the nuclear family system replacing it. The nuclear family is the dominant form in nearly industrialized societies. It consists only of the parents and any dependent children, and the group lives apart from other relatives.
According to William Goode, a sociologist who has studied the transformation of the family in several societies, there are a number of reasons why industrialization and the nuclear family are linked. Among these are the requirement for geographic mobility and a dependency on agencies and institutions such as Social Security to fulfill family responsibilities and meet family needs.
In the past several decades, the family has undergone further transformation. The one parent family is replacing the nuclear unit in many cultures worldwide. The debate, however, is whether the single-parent family is a temporary or permanent institution.
No matter how you look at it, the single parent family is an emerging social unit. According to statistics, families maintained by women have accounted for nearly one-half of the growth in the total number of families since 1975.
Since 1970, the number of single parent families more than doubled. Other sources report that since 1960, the number of one-parent families has grown seven times as fast as the number of traditional two-parent families.
The single-parent family takes many forms, widowed, divorced or never married. According to statistics, the largest single-parent family group is headed by divorced mothers. Second were never-married mothers, In fact, they are also the fastest growing group of single parents. Separated mothers head some of one-parent families.
Among the remaining categories of single-parent heads of families are widows, divorced fathers, separated or spouse absent fathers, spouse absent mothers, never-married fathers and widowers.
Each type of single-parent family is unique, with varying degrees of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. A never-married parent may be in her situation as a result of an unwanted pregnancy. Many teen-agers may be described as such. Unfortunately, in order to deliver their babies and support them, most of these parents must leave school before completing their education, thus entering the work force as unskilled labour, often with no means of support other than government assistance, if ever.
Widowed spouses, on the other hand, may receive support from sympathetic and understanding family members. When a mother or father needs to make a new home for the children, family members might offer temporary or permanent housing. During working hours, grandparents may provide child care.
The divorced parents may enjoy an amicable arrangement or suffer unbearable difficulties. Some custodial mothers, for instance, regularly receive child support from their ex-husband and the children enjoy spending leisure hours with their non-custodial fathers. Other mothers receive financial support but no practical assistance, while still others are virtually abandoned by their former spouses. Families in this last category comprise the largest part of what is currently termed the “new poor”.
The “new poor” is comprised primarily of divorced mothers without job skills and teen mothers who drop out of school to raise their babies. These women should depend on social service agencies such as Welfare and Aid to dependent children for financial support where available.
In addition to the practice aspects of single parenting, there are emotional issues. A widowed parent must overcome grief and feelings of abandonment. A never-married parent must come to grips with social stigmas attached to that condition. A divorced parent must deal with feelings of rejection, failure and anger, while concurrently trying to overcome bitterness or the unfounded hope of a reconciliation.
Regardless of the situation, whether brought about by necessity or choice, one-parent families share the basic problems of how to cope single-handedly with day-to-day decisions and supervision, how to compensate for the absence of the other parent and how to withstand the attendant stress.
The number of women who forego marriage (never married parents) yet choose to have a child is forever growing, although not all never-married mothers have freely chosen this status. More and more unwed and pregnant teenagers are choosing to have and keep their babies.
Some never-married mothers have sought and found others who share their status. They have come together to create communal living arrangements, with mother and child having a private apartment but sharing living and dining quarters with others. This arrangement also offers support groups to deal with personal and child care problems.
Other never-married people are now becoming adoptive parents. The process is still long and difficult for single people, but adoption agencies now consider them acceptable prospective parents for “hard-to-place” children.
Pregnant and unmarried teen-agers who choose to have and keep their babies are becoming a new sociological phenomenon. Families headed by teen-age mothers are more likely to be poor as other families, experts say.
Single-parent families headed by divorced or widowed individuals must be considered in a different light. These are families undergoing a drastic change. There is an obvious loss created by the death or divorce, and where two people shared child-rearing responsibilities, now there is only one.
The death of a spouse, whether sudden or anticipated (widowed parents), leave a void in the lives of the surviving spouse and children. While trying to overcome their sorrow and grief, widowed parents must come to terms with harsh reality-they are entirely on their own in raising a family. They must confront the practical and financial issues while trying to come to grips with serious emotional stress.
Friends and family are often supportive and compassionate, perhaps teaching a mother about home maintenance or a father about unfamiliar household duties. They may even provide a temporary or permanent home, as well as loving care for the children.
In 1959, at the age of 23, Karen Roberts married her husband Gerry. They were filed with all the hopes and dreams of newlyweds. Just over one year later, their first child was born, followed 18 months later by a second. The future looked promising for the young family until tragedy struck less than six months later. Gerry was afflicted with a brain tumor that paralyzed the left side of his body. Surgery and radiation were only temporarily effective. The growth rate of the tumor made the affliction terminal.
Gerry was in and out of hospitals for the next several years, and Karen moved her young family in with her parents to ensure loving care for the children while she visited the hospital daily. Then, in 1966, the illness took Gerry’s life.
“I think I was relieved, “said Karen, “because there was nothing more they could do for him and the radiation wasn’t stopping the growth of the tumor. It was just growing and at the end he had fallen into a coma. He had pneumonia. He couldn’t communicate.
“I really didn’t know if I should, if I was doing the right thing, how the children would adapt. It was the most mementous decision I have ever made in my entire life, and I’m glad I did what I did”, Karen asserts.
Demographic expert Kari Zinsmeister reports that since the 1950s, the divorce rate has more than doubled. Moreover, at least 40percent of children born today will endure a marital breakup, and 20percent will experience two divorces before reaching majority at age 18.
I view the single-parent family as a transition stage, a transition from the breakup of the unsuccessful family to a new family that is going to work.
Statistics, in fact, support this statement. Five out six divorced men and three out of four divorced women remarry usually other divorced persons. And two-third of all widowers between the ages of 30 and 50 also marry again. Andy green was 20 year old when he got married for the first time. Several years and two children later, his wife began to drink. She went through a rehabilitation programme she either didn’t work at it or programme just didn’t work for her. She was an alcoholic and the children were in danger.
Widowed single parents often experience feelings of hurt, anger, abandonment, frustration and inadequacy. Divorced single parents feel bitterness, rejection, failure. Both of these groups need to over-come their loneliness and build their self-esteem through solving problems and finding help.
There are a number of support groups that help fulfill this need. Many local social service agencies also provide help for single parent and their children.

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