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KDI Policy Forum
Transition from a Two-Parent to a Single-Parent Household and Child Development

April 13, 2021

  • Author KIM.Inkyung
  • Series No. KDI Policy Forum No. 282 (2021-01), eng
  • Language English
PDF
KDI Policy Forum
Transition from a Two-Parent to a Single-Parent Household and Child Development

April 13, 2021

  • Author KIM.Inkyung
  • Series No. No. 282 (2021-01), eng
  • Language English
PDF
    1. Issues

    2. Analysis of the Impact of Family Transitions on Child Development

    3. Policy Suggestions
KDI Report VOD
Jongsu lives with his grandmother, Taejun lives with his father, and Chaeun lives with her mother.

A single-parent household refers to a family where either the mother, father or grandparents are raising the child.

In Korea, 1 out of every 10 households is a single-parent family.

This becomes 1 in 5 when we look at households with children.

Then, what developmental changes do children experience when their family becomes a single-parent household?

To find out, data that tracked the yearly development of 11 year-olds in 2010 until they were 17 was used to differentiate the children of families that transitioned from a two-parent to a one-parent household from those of families that remained a two-parent household, and the effects stemming from the unique characteristics of a family, such as the parents’ personalities, the children’s genetic features, and the families’ socioeconomic background were excluded.

Using the findings, an analysis was then conducted on how a change in family type affects children’s health, self-regulated learning, emotional disorders, self-perception, life satisfaction, peer attachment, school adjustment, sense of community, and multicultural acceptance.

The results reveal that for children who transitioned into a one-parent home,
their ability to manage academic time dropped 8.5%, but their attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders improved by 14.4%.

Contrary to the prevailing view that child abuse worsens when a family becomes a single-parent home, it was found that children’s attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders improved because the conflict between the parents eased and the children’s relationship with the primary caregiver grew closer.

In addition, there were no negative effects on the various aspects of the children’s health, self-perception, sense of community, and other facets of their development.

In fact, according to an in-depth interview with the caregivers of one-parent homes, the majority experienced positive changes in their attitudes towards parenting after the transition.

This study shows that the realities of single-parent households vastly differ from general preconceptions. However, when we approach the issue from the perspective of the child’s academic performance, policy intervention is unquestionably needed to ease the negative impact.

To that end, in order for caregivers to devote their time to their parental roles, and receive tailored eduction on enhancing children’s academic capacities, efforts must be made to expand housework support programs to swiftly ease their burden.

Also, teachers must become the children’s learning coach and emotional support as well as the parents’ counsellor. In a broader sense, we could learn from Ireland where some of teachers serve as coordinators who frequently consult with parents, and form a bridge between the home, school and community to improve learning conditions.
■ As Korea is expected to see an increase in the share of single-parent families, this study analyzes the impact of a family transition from a two-parent to single-parent home on child development.

- The level of development is measured based on health, self-regulated learning, emotional disorders, selfperception, life satisfaction, peer attachment, school adjustment, sense of community, and multicultural acceptance.

■ According to the analysis, children who have experienced a transition have difficulties in academic time management but see improvements in their attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders. However, the impact on other development criteria cannot be confirmed.

- The ability to manage academic time dropped 8.5% while the level of attention and attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorders improved 14.4%, compared to the averages.

- These results are possibly due to the fact that the children are able to have a positive relationship with the primary caregiver after the transition as they are no longer caught in the middle of the parental conflict.

■ This finding indicates that contrary to the conventional belief, transitions can also positively influence child development, and thus, policy intervention is needed to alleviate the negative effects on learning ability.

■ Housework support programs should be expanded to enable single parents to spend sufficient time parenting and, if necessary, receive help in better understanding their parental role. Also, schools should lead efforts to improve nurturing and learning environments by serving as a key link between families and local community.

- Single parents burdened with household chores cannot invest enough time to establish relationships with their children or gain information about nurturing and education. Programs for such services should stretch to reach single parents struggling with labor, study, disease, and disability.

- Parent education programs that are specifically customized to fit the needs of single parents should be included in housework support programs if needed to resolve grievances in a timely manner.

- Teachers should serve as a learning coach and emotional support for the children, and counsellor for the parents while closely monitoring the children's learning stages and family conditions that can affect academic performance.

- To alleviate the academic difficulties of students, schools should encourage teacher cooperation, promote parent-teacher partnerships, and reinforce parents' capability to provide academic support. They should also take the lead in adopting and driving family support services when a child is in need of help that exceeds the capabilities of the school.
 
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