A 2006 study done by a University of North Carolina sociologist found that disabled children are more likely than other kids to live with single mothers or other female caretakers. The stresses of raising a child with a disability can reduce a mother's chances of marrying and increase the chances of a marriage breaking up, according to the study. And when it comes to the constant care their children require, coupled with expensive medical treatments, single moms can find it difficult to find good quality of life outside the home, hindering their social and employment prospects.
Unmarried mothers of disabled children might experience stress, denial or despair, but those who take proactive steps to educate themselves on their child's disability will likely learn to process the situation in a healthy manner. Libraries, support groups, doctors and counselors can improve emotional health and quality of life for single mothers of disabled children, but the University of North Carolina study reported that many might be unaware of the resources available to them. According to a study done by Ohio State University, lack of sleep, depression, reduced immunity, digestive problems and cardiovascular issues are among the health concerns common to parents of disabled children.
According to a synopsis of Dennis Hogan’s book “Family Consequences of Children’s Disabilities,” published on The Russell Sage Foundation website, one-third of children with disabilities live in single-parent homes, and approximately one in three families with a disabled child live in poverty. Single mothers might find it difficult to find employment flexible enough to allow for doctor's visits, therapy or other care involved with supporting a child with a disability. Continuous surgeries or medical procedures might leave single mothers with major financial strain.
Hogan reports that a strong network of support from family is critical for single mothers of disabled children, and many families cite a strong bond among family members of a disabled child. Single mothers benefit from the financial and emotional assistance that supportive families can provide, increasing the quality of life for the disabled child and mother.
According to a 2009 University of Manitoba study, single mothers tend to bounce back from the stresses associated with caring for a disabled child and use the experience to better themselves. Over time, single mothers reported feeling more confident and empowered to tackle life's challenges. While the diagnosis of a disability might take time to process, single mothers eventually adjust and some consider the situation to be an opportunity for self-improvement.
- Ontario Association on Developmental Disabilities: Maltreatment and Life Stressors in Single Mothers Who Have Children with Developmental Delay
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Against All Odds: Resilience in Single Mothers of Children With Disabilities
- Russell Sage Foundation: Family Consequences of Children’s Disabilities
- Indiana University: National Center on Accessibility: Becoming a Resilient Family: Child Disability and the Family System
- Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council: Caring for Children With Disabilities in Ohio: The Impact on Families
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Study: Children With Disabilities More Likely to Live With Women
- University of Washington: Exploring Mental Health Outcomes for Low-income Mothers of Children With Special Needs
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