Effects on Girls Raised by Single Mothers

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Single motherhood is difficult, especially because of the potential for problems. More conflict, less education, substance use and more sexual risk taking are more likely in daughters of single mothers. By being aware of these concerns, mothers can watch for signs and intervene to protect their daughters.

More Conflict

In single-mother households, daughters report more conflict and more negative and angry feelings toward their mothers than in dual parent households, notes Florida Atlantic University psychologist Brett Laurson in a study of 453 adolescents in Parenting: Science and Practice in 2009. This may be because single mothers are picking up arguments that usually fall onto fathers, leading to more discord between mothers and daughters. Being aware of the potential for extra conflict may help single mothers to remain calm, take a step back and find coping skills.

Substance Abuse

Though substance abuse is higher among children from single parent homes, girls from single-mother homes tend to have far less substance abuse than those from single-father homes, note Claremont Graduate University professors and researchers Vanessa Hemovich and William D. Crano in a study of 37,507 adolescents published in 2011. This is good news for single moms: It suggests that single mothers provide some protective effects against their daughters' use of substances. However, more research is needed to determine why this occurs.

Less Education

Girls from single-mother households may have more negative educational consequences -- such as lower grades or not graduating -- than boys from single-parent households, according to University of Texas researchers Maria A. Monserud and Glen H. Elder Jr. in a study of 10,083 adolescents published in 2011. However, this research also found that grandparent support, specifically living with grandparents, reduced these negative effects, possibly due to less economic strain on the child and mother, access to better schools and more people to help with schoolwork. Single mothers may want to take this into account and seek additional family help for children where possible.

More Sexual Risk Taking

Daughters of single mothers without paternal involvement may take more sexual risks during adolescence and young adulthood, including earlier sexual permissiveness and negativity toward condom use, according to Texas Christian University psychologist and researcher Danielle Delpriore in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2013. Mothers may reduce these effects by discussing sexual activity openly and honestly with their daughters, and encouraging healthy body image and educated decision-making.