Connecting Families: A Relationship Enhancement Program

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Low income black women embrace marriage
less frequently than Hispanic and Caucasian women (Edin, 2000). Poor women move
away from marriage because of affordability, respectability, trust and control (Coley,
2002). Low-income women define a man’s marriage acceptability based upon his
employment and economic stability, ability to trust his sexual fidelity and level of
responsibility with children as precursors to marriage (Carlson & Furstenberg, 2003). For
many women cohabitation affords them greater control that they believe they will lose
through marriage.
The outcomes for children growing up in single parent families are less positive.
Children being raised in single parent families appear to be the most affected by their
family structure. Frequently, single parents are poor, have less education than cohabiting
and married parents, and less likely to be employed (Parke, 2003). The outcomes for
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Family Structure’s Impact on Children’s Development 65 2004
children raised in a single parent household are: that academic achievement declines,
emotional and behavioral problems increase (Manning, 2002). However, caution needs
to be taken to not generalize to the total population of single parent families. Most
children in single parent families will not experience these negative outcomes (Parke,
2003). Many unmarried parents are poorly equipped to support themselves and their
children. Lacking the financial resources and parenting skills increases the likelihood
that children will experience some difficulty in development (Osborne, McLanahan, &
Brooks-Gunn, 2003).
More and more children are living in stepfamilies. The transition that children
experience in moving from one family context and structure to another creates stress and
may lead to poor outcomes. In spite of better economic circumstances on average,
children in stepfamilies are more likely to have negative behavior, health and educational
outcomes (Raley & Wildsmith, 2004). These risk factors increase the poorer a child is
and with the increase in the number of transitions to new family situations (Morrison &
Ritualo, 2000).
The outcomes for children’s development are influenced by the family structure in which
they grow up. However, one’s family structure does not guarantee negative or positive
outcomes. The family’s stability may be the most significant determinant. The effect of
living with two biological parents in a stable cohabitating family versus a married family
seems to indicate that there are many factors beyond those of the parental relationship
that come into play to produce positive and negative outcomes for children. However, as
cohabitating unions continue to increase more effort needs to be expended to determine
ways to support positive development of children no matter what their family structure.
References
Carlson, M., & Furstenbery, F. (2003). Complex families: Documenting the prevalence and
correlates of multi-partnered fertility in the United States. Working Paper # 03-14-FF. Center for
Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University. Retrieved November 10, 2003 from
http://crcw.princeton.edu-workingpapers-WP03-14-FF-Carlson.pdf.
Coley, R. (2002). What mothers teach, what daughters learn: Gender mistrust and self-sufficiency
among low-income women. In A. Booth & A.

Article contributed by
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Veronica S. Haggerty

Counselor/Therapist

"A strong, healthy relationship can be one of the best things that can happen to you. However, it can also be one of the biggest drains on you if the relationship is not working. Relationships are like bank accounts. The more you put in, the more you get back. Falling in love is the easy part, but long term relationships take work, commitment, and a willingness to adapt and change through life as a team. Learn about ways to keep a healthy relationship strong, or begin to today to work on repairing trust and renewing love for a relationship on the rocks".

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