Chalk one up for single moms. It's not that they aren't good parents, it's just that economically they can't do as much for their kids. A new study by the Council on Contemporary Families found that American families are doing well overall in parenting but there are still large numbers of children who are financially disadvantaged.
This is significant because income is usually a predictor of parenting style. It's not just single-parent families that have socio-economic issues.
Sandra Hofferth, a professor at the University of Maryland, examined data released by the Census Bureau in December that measured various parenting practices reported by parents around the country. Hofferth found that marital status was not the main factor in whether or not kids were being parented well.
The difference in income brackets is greater than differences between couples of different marital status when it comes to parenting. This is where all those extras come in -- the piano lessons, the soccer teams and all of the extracurricular activities parents provide for their children.
“For example, the extracurricular participation in sports of children in families at 200% or more of the poverty level is 42.5%, while the participation of those in poverty is 22.5%, a difference of percentage points,” the report explains. “The difference between children of two married parents and children with a single parent was only 10%age points (44% vs. 34%).”
Reading is fundamental and the report didn't show much of a gap between married and unmarried parents who read to their kids. Married parents read to their children an average of 6.8 times per week; unmarried parents did so an average of 6 times per week.
How much TV time they allow their kids seems to be pretty consistent between both groups -- 93% of children living with married parents have rules about their television consumption; 90% of children living with single parents do.
As for the ever-so-important family meal it seems that single parents manage that a bit better. Children living with single parents are actually slightly more likely to report eating dinner as a family at least five nights a week.
The report also pointed out that many two-income homes also fall below the poverty line.
"The poverty rate of children in married-couple families is much lower -- 14% -- but in terms of absolute numbers there are more married than unmarried parents living below the poverty line," she said. "In many cases, parents do not marry because they are poor, rather than becoming poor because they are not married."