Home » Family & Social Problems Defined » Bulk of Social Problems Exist Regardless of No of Parents

EXCERPT FROM ENOTES ARTICLE A resultant report emanating from the May 1992 riots in Los Angeles subsequent to Vice President Dan Quayle’s speech …

“I believe the lawless social anarchy which we saw is directly related to the breakdown of family structure, personal responsibility and social order in too many areas of our society,” Quayle remarked. He went on to criticize society’s increasingly permissive attitude toward out-of-wedlock childbearing, pointing specifically to the treatment of the issue in the television sitcom Murphy Brown. “It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown—a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman—mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice.’”

Some, seeing his speech as a moralistic attack on single mothers, responded by insisting that most single mothers work hard to provide for their children and to raise them well. Others considered Quayle’s view of the traditional family as nostalgic and unrealistic, out of touch with the social and economic realities of life in contemporary America.

The character Murphy Brown, played by actress Candice Bergen, directly responded to Quayle in a subsequent episode of the show. In words that doubtlessly resonated with many Americans, she declared,

“Perhaps it’s time for the vice president to expand his definition [of family] and recognize that whether by choice or circumstance families come in all shapes and sizes. And ultimately, what really defines a family is commitment, caring and love.”

… According to Sara S. McLanahan, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, children who grow up with one parent are “disadvantaged across a broad array of outcomes”; they are more likely to drop out of school, commit crime, or become pregnant. However, she concludes, “the evidence . . . does not show that family disruption is the principal cause” of these problems.

According to McLanahan,

If all children lived in two-parent families, teen motherhood and idleness would be less common, but the bulk of these problems would remain.”

In addition, some social scientists and others argue that the causal connection between single-parent families and social problems is unclear. While most experts concede that children from single-parent families are more likely to experience problems such as poor school performance and poverty, many believe it is erroneous to automatically assume that these difficulties are caused by the absence of one parent.

According to Arlene Skolnick, a research psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, and Stacey Rosencranz, a graduate student at Stanford University,

Single parenthood may be correlated with many problems affecting children, but the causes may lie elsewhere—for example, in economic and emotional problems affecting parents that lead to difficulties raising children and greater chances of divorce.”

Other commentators contend that for the large number of single-parent families who live in inner cities, a shortage of educational and employment opportunities is more likely to impact the quality of children’s lives than the number of parents they have. …

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