A study by The Vanier Institute of The Family has provided some interesting insights about single parenting, especially among teenagers. Some of the more depressing conclusions are regarding the reasons youth choose to become single parents, even if they are incapable of adequately providing for their child.
In Canada, as in the U.S.A, about 80% of all teenaged women, 15 years to 19 years, who give birth are unmarried. Young single parents, both men and women, are generally in low socioeconomic standards than older ones. They have less education, leading to fewer marketable skills which in turn leads to poverty.
Why do Teenagers Become Single Parents Voluntarily?
- Since most of these teens come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, they have very few prospects in life to increase their social status. Consequently, by becoming a parent, these youth have a “title” and “status” in society; they are now a mother or a father. Furthermore, young women see motherhood as the only attainable social status.
- Young men believe having children is a sign of masculinity.
- Young women believe that there are very few men who would marry them and provide support so having a child on their own is an attractive option.
- As the notion of individualism arose, the emphasis was placed on a person’s right and less on the responsibility that accompany human rights. As a result, a woman’s right to bear children, and a man’s right to father children without the benefit of marriage were overemphasized, with less emphasis on parental responsibilities. In addition to that, social service agencies encouraged youth to raise their children rather than allow adoption, even when the young parents were incapable of supporting the children because it was the parent’s right. Consequently, cultural expectations changed and higher births to teenagers in poverty rose.
Negative Consequences for Children of Young Single Parents
In general, children born to teenagers in low socioeconomic environments face many of these consequences:
- They have behavioural problems and learning disabilities.
- The generation gap between the parent and the child is small resulting in parents that behave like siblings. If another adult does not raise the child, then the child will grow up without a parent who imposes values and discipline. There is no structure in the family.
- They are more likely to become young offenders.
- They have lower education and lower employment prospects.
- They become teenage parents themselves and the cycle of poverty continues.
After reading this study, it is clear that many youth who are in this situation are misguided. They see no hope of a better life and frankly, they do not know any better since many of these youth are children of single parents.
As a society, we must teach our youth, especially young women, that they are valuable citizens who have the power to do anything. We must show them their full potential and how they can reach socially responsible goals. We should teach them the consequences of teenage pregnancies from a very young age.
In addition to that, our society must identify and support youth at risk. It is imperative that we supply them with the tools and skills necessary to raise themselves out of poverty.
The Vanier Institute of the Family, available online at: http://www.vanierinstitute.ca/include/get.php?nodeid=1147