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Sex of Parent and Children's Well-Being in Single-Parent Households

Douglas B. Downey, James W. Ainsworth-Darnell and Mikaela J. Dufur
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 60, No. 4 (Nov., 1998), pp. 878-893
DOI: 10.2307/353631
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/353631
Page Count: 16
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Abstract

Do women and men play unique roles in shaping children's well-being? If so, we should note important differences between offspring living with single mothers and those living with single fathers. To date, researchers have been unable to assess this claim satisfactorily because they have lacked generalizable data with detailed information about adolescents in both single-mother and single-father households. We compare well-being among youths living in single-mother and single-father households using the 1990 wave of the National Education Longitudinal Study and among adults raised by single parents using data from the General Social Surveys, 1972-1994. Our results highlight how single mothers and single fathers differ from each other in ways that often predate their family structure but suggest that there is little evidence that offspring are better off or develop particular characteristics in one household versus the other. We suggest that theorists have overemphasized the role of parent's sex in youths' development at the expense of understanding more structural explanations for the association between family structure and well-being.

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