Losing affects their view of the “reality

Losing
the father in the family changes the dynamics of the members within
that group. Adjustment to the new family dynamic takes time and opens
up challenges that members must take on in order to manage their
household. Anderson and Sabatelli (2011) states three challenges that
single parent systems face: Managing family stress, developing new
themes and identities, and managing tasks in the household. In terms
of developing identities, the negative images associated with single
parent homes, generally being characterized as a “hostile societal
environment,” affects their view of the “reality of family” and
complicates the process of creating a positive identity for
themselves. (p. 310)

According to Nock (1988), as adults, children from single-parent
families have less success in school, lower earnings, and lower
occupational prestige than children raised in two parent families
because “they lack exposure to hierarchical models of authority in
their family.” (p. 957) Hierarchy was described in the study as a
“structured model wherein children are categorically inferior to
adults in the family.” With the loss of one parent, whether by
divorce or by death, there is a loss of this hierarchy in the family.
This is brought about by the fact that the reaming parent would most
likely be working to provide for the family, thus limiting the time
and money invested on their children and forcing parents to depend on
their children in ways that two-parent families do not. Nock points
out three manifestations of the lack of hierarchy in the family: (1)
parents
demanding greater independence from their children, (2)
parents
employing “authoritarian discipline,” and
(3) lack
of orderly structure in daily household routines. (p.
962)

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Family
stresses in single mother families would mostly fall on the mother as
she takes on the role of sole administrator for her family. However,
due to the stress that comes with this role, single mothers tend to
ask help from their children. This
leads
to the parent and child from single-parent families to see each other
more as peers; erasing the generational boundaries that is an
important characteristic of two-parent families. (Dornbusch
et al., 1985 as mentioned in Larson and Gillman, 1999; Nock,
1988) Nixon,
Greene, and Hogan (2012) studied how mothers and children negotiate
their relationship in a single mother family resulting from an early
separation from the father and have not undergone any transition such
as divorce or reparenting. Their study showed that single mothers and
their children form a sense of closeness that is quite different from
others, with one mother saying that her relationship with her 14-year
old child resembles that of a wedded couple. The child’s role
within this kind of family adapts
to the absence of a father figure, sometimes
becoming a support system for their mother.
Burton
(2007, as mentioned in Nixon, et al., 2012) argues however that when
parents rely heavily on their children for emotional support, this
may also lead to children and parent having more egalitarian roles
or, in some cases, to the adultification or
parentification
of the child where there is a reversal of roles in which the child
takes care of the parent by assuming responsibilities for them and
providing practical and emotional support.

More
often than not, it is the eldest child who takes on the role of the
parental
child.
The
parental child is
defined
as children
who assume parental responsibility due to economic and social
conditions (often
a daughter or older child) requiring him or her to take
responsibility for parenting other children (or the parent) in the
single-parent family system. (Earley
and Cushway, 2002; Anderson and Sabatelli, 2011)
While studies show that increased expectations can contribute to a
child’s independence and competence, there are risks to this role
including increased sibling conflicts and interference with the
child’s growth and development; since the child is expected to help
around the house, time for other things such as extra-curricular
activities would be limited. (Anderson
and Sabatelli, 2011) Furthermore,
psychologists have also noted that when children are faced with
demands that go beyond their capabilities, they are most likely to
experience stress that may lead to psychological maladjustment in the
future. (Peris and Emery, 2005)

Aside
from providing emotional support, mother and child in single-mother
families are also exposed to each other’s emotions, both positive
and negative, which may affect the other’s disposition. As
mentioned, since there is a lack of second adult, there is a tendency
for the relationship of single mothers and their children to be more
peer-like, where the parent is seen as less dominant than their
two-parent family counterpart. Furthermore,
research shows that parent-child relationships are more egalitarian
in single-parent families thus assuming that the
transmission of emotions between the mother and her child is
symmetrical and bidirectional.
(Demo,
1992, Weiss, 1979, as mentioned in Larson and Gillman, 1999)
However,
in the study of Larson and Gillman (1999), it was found that the
transmission of emotions between single mothers to their adolescent
is unidirectional, where the mothers’ anxiety and anger predicted
the adolescents’ subsequent anxiety and anger.