A new study found that single moms who have a strong social network around them help close any gaps their kids may have had.
Past studies had found that people who grow up in single-parent families have decreased well-being and satisfaction as adults.
According to Dr. Sakari Lemola from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology and Dr. David Richter from the German Institute for Economic Research, adults who were raised by a single parent for their entire childhood earn on average 30% less and are more likely to be unemployed. They were 9% less likely to be in a romantic relationship and had a smaller circle of friends.
They studied more than 24,000 adults; of them, 641 spent their entire childhood with a single parent, and 1,539 spent part of their early years with one parent. They looked at annual income, number of doctor visits, romantic relationships, and overall social integration.
“Both parents still provide important resources even when children have already grown up and left their parent’s home. During young adulthood these resources may include financial support as well as access to social networks, which is important to find a good job,” Lemola said in a statement.
The newer, smaller study of single mothers by choice found that kids of single-by-choice parents do just fine, for the most part, and even better if the solo parent has a strong social network.
Dr. Fran Walfish, a California-based psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, said that while children benefit from two parents, being a single parent doesn’t mean your child will be less prepared or well.
“I have seen many kids emerge out of single parent families and thrive,” Walfish noted. “The keys to a positive outcome are a consistently warmly attuned mother who is comfortable balancing love and nurture, and limits and boundaries—both at the same time,” she said. Walfish advises moms to retain a “big brother” role model who can participate in father/child activities.
Another key is helping children develop a “growth mindset” as opposed to one that’s “fixed,” said Dr. Kelly Pryde, a parenting coach from Ontario.
A fixed mindset believes that things such as skills, talents, and circumstances are not really changeable—they are the way they are and there is not much we can do to change them, Pryde explained. A growth mindset, on the other hand, focuses on learning and process and knows that circumstances and abilities can change with effort, problem-solving skills and feedback from others over time.
“Single parents can help their children embrace a growth mindset by emphasizing the process over current outcomes and circumstances,” she said. “Even though things may not be the way we’d like them to be right now, we can still work towards a different outcome through goal-setting, effort, problem-solving, and learning from mistakes.”
“Over time, these practices can lead to greater success in all areas of life,” Pryde added.