Decline In The Ability To Parent

One study reports that divorced parents made fewer maturity demands on their children, were less consistent, had less control over their children and communicated less well. The mother-son relationship seems particularly problematic in divorced families. The single mother may confront specific problems of authority in discipline, and may have to be super-mother to counter the image of greater authority and power vested in males (Hetherington, Cox, & Cox 1978).

Another study states, the combined needs of the children may be intolerable to the emotionally unsupported solitary parent. Since the emotional requirements of children are very likely to take the form of demands for physical attention or personal service, the remaining parent may be subject to physical as well as emotional exhaustion (Glasser & Navarre 1965).

Hetherington and others (1982 have found that custodial mothers were less communicative and affectionate with their children and more inconsistent and less effective in setting limits than were mothers in intact families. Custodial mothers particularly had problems dealing with their sons.  The parenting by custodial mothers had improved by two years after the divorce. Six years after divorce, mothers continued to be less effective in disciplining sons, but were as affectionate as mothers in intact families.

Emery (1984) describes other research findings on deterioration in parenting by custodial mothers. Some mothers become "overly permissive, rigid or emotionally dependent" on their children although, after a period of adjustment, most mothers improve in their functioning.  Some long-term disruptions were observed, particularly among sole custody mothers who were depressed, who were isolated from relatives and friends, who had experienced severe economic concerns, or who had several young children


Hetherington E. M., Cox M., & Cox R (1978). The Aftermath of Divorce. In Steven and Mathews (Editors), Mother-Child, Father-Child Relations. National Association for the Education of Young Children: Washington D. C

Glasser P., & Navarre E (January 1965). Structural Problems of The One Parent Family. Journal of Social Issues 2: 106-107

Hetherington E. M., et al (1982). Effects of Divorce on Parents and Children, in (Michael E. Lamb ed., Non-traditional Families. pp 233- 252

Emery R. E., et al (1984). Divorce, Children and Social Policy, In Harold W. Stevenson & Albert E. Siegel (Editors), Child Development Research and Social Policy.


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