Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Can Church Help a Single Parent?

The Power of a Community

“It takes a village to raise a child.” Although the origin of the proverb is not easily ascertained, the truth it represents is widely accepted. While this blog site primarily focuses on the importance of parents in the lives of children, the community within which a child is raised also plays a significant factor. Parents have long depended upon a greater community in the successful raising of children. While all families can benefit from the social capital that comes from involvement with a community, a recent article shows that single mothers’ involvement in a religious community has significant positive impact on their children during early childhood development.

            The research by Richard Petts of Ball State University focuses on a family structure that is not the norm of most religious institutions. Petts’s (2012) claims that most research involving families and religious institutions focuses on “the heterosexual two-parent families” which are the prototypical norm those institutions promote (p. 264). However, in recent years more single mothers are finding a place of support in religious communities. And, those single mothers who attend services frequently are seeing greater positive outcomes in their children and in their families.

            So, what are some of the positive outcomes? Here are four positive outcomes shown in the research.

1. Decreased Problem Behavior in Children. In the study, children of single mothers who were more frequent attenders in church had lower externalized and internalized problem behaviors. Externalized problem behaviors are those such as aggression, destroying things, fighting, and demanding excessive attention. Internalized problem behaviors include being withdrawn, being unhappy, expressing feelings of loneliness, excessive crying, and feelings of guilt and worry.

2. Greater Parental Involvement. Perhaps due to the emphasis of religious organizations on encouraging family relationships, these children also experienced increased involvement with their mother and their nonresident father.

3. Reduced Parenting Stress. The mothers also exhibited less stress. Being involved with the community helps the mothers deal with stressful issues and provides support and respite in times of need.

4. Less Corporal Punishment. Children should like that one! The researcher attributes the reduction in corporal punishment to the sanctification of family relationships. It is also possibly due to the lower problem behaviors in children and the lower stress levels in mothers.

As a father of two young kids, I have the utmost respect for single mothers. Honestly, I have no idea how they do all the things they do! They really are super moms in my view. However, even Superman had his Super Friends.

So, what plans do you have Sunday morning?

Petts, R. J. (2012), Single Mothers' Religious Participation and Early Childhood Behavior. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74: 251–268. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2011.00953.x

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