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KDI - Korea Development Institute

KDI - Korea Development Institute



Policy Study Family Types and Human Capital Formation in Childhood December 31, 2020


Series No. 2020-03

Policy Study KOR Family Types and Human Capital Formation in Childhood #Elementary and Secondary Education #Welfare Policy
DOI P-ISBN979-11-5932-594-6 E-ISBN979-11-5932-601-1

December 31, 2020

  • 프로필
Single-parent families are on the rise in Korea, and the figure is expected to increase as society becomes more accepting of different family structures. However, despite the sincere efforts made by the government, local authorities, and civic groups to combat discriminatory practices and negative perceptions, the notion that dual parenting is superior prevails, and as a result, a large number of children from single-parent homes are being discriminated against. Accordingly, empirical evidence is needed to prove that children can grow up healthy in either family situations, and if discrepancies are found in their development, policy efforts should be made to narrow the gap.

Thus, using data on 4th grade elementary students from the 2010-2017 Korean Children and Youth Panel Survey, this study analyzes the impact of a transition from a two- to single-parent home on children’s development, and explores policy measures to mitigate the negative effects. For the empirical analysis, single- and two-parent families who have similar propensity scores in terms of becoming a single-parent home were matched based on observable characteristics, and a fixed effect difference-in-differences model was used to control the unobservable time-invariant characteristics.

The results reveal that the transition is not entirely negative, and can even serve as a positive shift. It was found that it does not damage the children’s health, study habits, emotions, self-awareness, satisfaction level, peer attachments, adjustment to school, sense of community, or acceptance of multiculturalism, among others. One noticeable change observed is that children’s attentiveness and concentration improved by a statistically significant 5% while their capacity to manage their school schedules weakened. With a statistical significance of up to 10%, there was a decline in the children’s sense of achievement and participation in school activities but an improvement in social withdrawal. This is assumed to be because removing the parent who has the negative impact eases the children’s anxieties, and the caregiving parent feels a stronger sense of responsibility about their children’s development.

To improve management of school schedules, sense of achievement, and participation in school activities, it is important to strengthen children’s self-control. This depends on how well the caregiver can bolster the children's autonomy, competence, and relationships. Self-control can only be improved if the caregiver is given sufficient time to serve in his/her parental role as well as specific support, if necessary, to help them better understand their part. Single parents have to serve multiple roles as the homemaker, child-rearer, and breadwinner, so it is often the case that they face challenges in obtaining essential information on child rearing, and their children are inevitably forced to be alone. As such, alleviating the burden of housework could give them more hours to devote to caregiving. Currently, the Seoul Single-Parent Family Support Center provides housekeeping services for single parents who have difficulties due to work, study, illness, or disability. These services should to be expanded and a face-to-face and/or remote program on parent education should be designed to fit the needs and available hours of single parents who use these services.

Moreover, to ease difficulties at school, teachers need to play various roles such as academic coach, emotional supporter, parental counselor, and a bridge to community resources. To this end, their duties should be further specified to cover diverse areas including developing educational content, designing class projects, delivering online lectures and face-to-face classes, providing emotional support, executing customized educational programs, conducting in-depth parental counseling, and making connections with available resources. As an emotional supporter, teachers should be able to build a positive trusting relationship with students through face-to-face classes, and also bond with both parent and child through continued monitoring and evaluation of the children’s school life and academic performance. If determined necessary, teachers can serve as a link to education facilitators who provide customized education or to in-depth counsellors and relevant organizations that can connect parents to available resources in the community. Tailored education should be provided in consideration of the student’s academic goals and interests, strengths in and necessary support for learning, necessary assistance for social, emotional and physical development, and areas that require cooperation from caregivers. For teachers to seamlessly perform their role, it is important that they establish a bond through personal interaction with the caregivers. While paying constant attention to the educational needs of single parents, teachers could help in counseling and guiding family-support programs or courses. In addition, through home visits, teachers could ascertain the negative aspects in terms of the children’s schooling, such as home environment, household income, health, and family reorganization, and they could connect them to local organizations that can provide relevant support.

This study discusses the fact that children from single-parent families do not experience difficulties in every aspect of their development, and that the lack of academic skills observed among these children can be resolved by creating an institutional environment that can provide not only emotional support from the parents but also cooperation between parents, schools, and the community. It is hoped that this study can contribute to improving perspectives on single-parent families.
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