As I side effect of my volunteer work, I run into many single mothers by choice (call them SMBC for now). These are single women who choose to conceive with the intent to raise the child as a single mother without a partner's support. I've seen lots of discussion about whether the children of SMBCs will struggle due to the lack of a partner. This article both discusses briefly some of the notable opponents of SMBCs and does an interesting analysis of the topic. Unfortunately I can't find its sources so I can't trust its statistics.

I would like to know if children raised by SMBCs struggle compared to children raised in a traditional relationship.

To better define "struggle," I'll settle for studies which compare the differences between children of SMBCs and children of nuclear families in relationship to the one or more of the following criteria:

  • Successful relationships, number of divorces.
  • Socioeconomic level (or perhaps level relative to level of parent?)
  • Education level achieved
  • Degree of suicidal behavior, depression, or non-genetic mental health issues
  • Criminal activity, jail time, or similar anti-social behaviors
  • Odds of teen pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock, or other unwanted pregnancy.

In an idealized would I would love studies that corrected for unknown fathers — for instance, longitudinal studies comparing SMBCs using a sperm bank to nuclear families that used a sperm bank, traditional surrogate, or donated embryo, though that is perhaps too much to ask for.

  • Is this question specifically about single mothers or single parents? Men can adopt or raise children alone, too. – user70848 Dec 13 '15 at 0:37
  • @user70848 I'm interested in single parents in general, but wanted to exclude adoption (which comes with many other complexity). So yes single father's who, for example, used a traditional surrogate, I would be interested in as well; though I don't know if your find studies that address such a specific use case. – dsollen Dec 14 '15 at 15:25
  • @user70848 Having thought of it a little more I'm not sure why I was so keen on avoiding adoption, so long as it's controlled for. so I would not be oppose to a study that compared single parent, father or mothers, that adopted to married couples that adopted. However, I don't want to compare single parents that adopted to nuclear families raising their own biological children; – dsollen Dec 14 '15 at 15:32
  • What difference does it make to specify biological children in a nuclear "traditional" family make, vs adopted children in a nuclear "traditional" family? It seems as though the distinction is a nuclear family, not the biology of the children. – user70848 Dec 16 '15 at 17:26
  • @user70848 yes that is the distinction I care about. However, I'm trying to adjust for potential contributing factors. One could argue (not saying rather or not it's valid, that's a skeptics question in itself) that a non-biological child will struggle more then the biological child on average. Thus if I'm interested specifically rather single parents who choose to be single parents have added difficult it is best to remove the added variable of biological relatedness to avoid the possibility that difficulty with being adopted are interpreted as results of being raised by single parent. – dsollen Dec 16 '15 at 20:28

I never saw articles supporting affirmatively your question. Or even supporting correlation between any of those items your have listed and being child of single mother.

I believe that only economic factors could have some correlation with socioeconomic and education levels. In this direction, some one-parent families could have some disadvantage since they have only one adult to provide any income.

Digging the web, I have founded an article -- coming from psychology and talking about one-parent Brazilian families -- which states that a child can grow without major problems in an one-parent family.

The work is in Portuguese, but the abstract is in English.

See the PDF document.

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  • Well, certainly it's possible for a single mother to raise her kids as effectively as a couple. The question is, however, not a if they are able to, but what's the percentage of them that manage that. It's important to note that the study you cited is not peer reviewed in any way, so I'm not certain about it's validity. – T. Sar Dec 14 '15 at 12:58
  • I honestly believe it is impossible to do this study you and the question's author suggest unless the data is very clear. If a son of single mother end using drugs why should I attribute this to the fact he is son of single mother? I could do this relation only if data shows that this is the destiny of the majority of children who grow in one-parent family, but this is not the case as the paper I have indicated shows. Education is more random than what we are prepared to accept. Finally, I think you didn't understand my answer. Thank you. – Rodrigo Ribeiro Dec 14 '15 at 13:14
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    If you check the type of study that is used as references on other answers, you will see that those types of study are done with a large sample of families, using different controls and several techniques that are pretty hardcore; It's more common that it seems. You actually missed the point of my comment. The OP is not questioning if kids can be normal. They are questioning how those kids compare to kids raised by couples. Your study doesn't show any useful data and just concludes that raising a child alone is harder for a single mother than it is for a couple. It doesn't answer the question – T. Sar Dec 14 '15 at 13:31
  • Ok, ok. I think you are right. Thanks again! – Rodrigo Ribeiro Dec 14 '15 at 13:38

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