People who grow up in single-parent families have lower levels of wellbeing and life satisfaction in adulthood, a study has found. Researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK found that individuals who were brought up by a single parent for their entire childhood earn on average 30 per cent less and are more likely to be unemployed. Furthermore, on average they are nine per cent less likely to be in a romantic relationship and had a smaller number of friends. In a study of over 24,000 adults aged 18-66, the researchers identified 641 individuals who spent their entire childhood with a single parent and 1,539 who spent part of their childhood with a single parent.
The sample group was asked how satisfied they are with life in general, using an 11-point scale – ranging from zero (completely dissatisfied) to ten (completely satisfied). They were also asked who they lived with for the first fifteen years of their life. The researchers analysed the participants’ annual income, number of visits to the doctor, level of social integration, and success in romantic relationships. After accounting for childhood socio-economic circumstances, the differences in life-satisfaction were relatively small.
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Those who grew up with a single parent for their entire childhood were about 0.2 points lower on the scale ranging from 0 to 10 than those who were brought up by both parents – and 0.1 points lower than those who experienced parental separation during childhood. “These findings suggest that both parents still provide important resources even when children have already grown up and left their parent’s home,” said Sakari Lemola from University of Warwick.
“During young adulthood these resources may include financial support as well as access to social networks, which is important to find a good job,” said Lemola. “Children who had grown up with a single parent for their entire childhood are less likely to know their second parent well and to receive such support during adult life,” he said. Single parenthood is increasingly common in Western societies, with 20 per cent of children in Germany and 24 per cent in the UK currently being raised in single-parent households – more than 80 per cent of those in households headed by single mothers.