1) Define the term single parent?
I would define single parent as a single/uncoupled parent who has the primary responsibility of taking care of a child (ren).
2) Tell me about the circumstance that led to you growing up in a single parent household (i.e.: one parent left, death, immigration, etc)
Father – deceased.
3) Why do you think the population of children growing up in single parent homes is very high within BME communities?
I think growing up in single parent homes in the BME community is prevalent due to a combination of different factors that contribute cumulatively to the difficulties that arise from growing up in single parent households.
- Societal inequality – statistics show that there is an income gap between black and ethnic minorities and the rest of Britain. I feel that the financial commitment involved with raising a child often deters a parent from undertaking the task of co-parenting.
- Awareness – I feel like a lot of families that reside in the UK from the BME community are first/second generation. Therefore, when it comes to issues surrounding family planning they may not be as well versed in procedures (or they are simple ignorant to them). When you couple that with the other factors that make growing up in single parent homes common as an individual belonging to the BME community it further exacerbates the problem. Additionally, other issues such as mental health being a more rampant feature plaguing the BME community, especially taking into account the stigmas and negative connotations associated with mental health.
- Values – internet culture (social media platforms e.g. twitter and Instagram) are indicators on what individuals within the various groups that constitute BME community prioritise. Topics associated with material wealth, infidelity, drug use and negative aspects of life characteristic of a person belonging to the BME community are sensationalised and more often than not, glorified. Although, the representation is a merely a reflection of the harsh realities of the environment a lot of members of the BME community live in, the constant barrage of this imagery makes individuals within the community prioritise the wrong things. Although, prioritising the wrong things is also a larger challenge that society faces as a whole it is more detrimental to members of the BME community because of the challenges that stem from inequality and racism that they face on a day to day basis. We are already at a disadvantage. Glorifying and engaging in this type of behaviour ends up reinforcing stereotypes and patterns of behaviour which exacerbates in the issue of single parent homes in the BME community. For example, a lot of the individuals that are members of BME groups look up to and idolise rappers and celebrities. The ways in which this translates to characteristics indicative of members of BME communities are that, people try and replicate the things that they see from the people that have fame and notoriety within the community. Individuals give precedence to values that are not conducive with a well-adjusted family life. As, sexual activity amongst young people is high, when coupled with issues of ignorance/lack of forethought in relation to family planning and high levels of promiscuity within the BME community a lot of children grow up in single parent homes as a result. This leads to the separate and related factor of how this is perpetuated in the wider sense and how this creates a cycle which is difficult to break in a generational sense. People cannot teach things they have never had or been exposed to because a lot of learning is conducted and solidified through experience. When this is supplemented with the fact that most parenting involves the unavoidable by-product of moulding their children in their own image through their actions and parental philosophy, this runs the danger of increasing the propensity for these behavioural thought patterns and deficiencies to manifest over time. Particularly when the actions exhibited do not directly coincide with the qualities associated with a functional family dynamic, which further entrenches the widespread presence of single parenthood and the destructive effects to the BME community.
4) In your view, why do you think some mothers/fathers leave their family home (if applicable)?
I think mothers and fathers have a tendency to walk out due to a number of different factors:
Perceived mistakes and errors in judgment when getting involved in particular relationships.
Irreconcilable differences between individuals within a relationship. This can primarily be attributed to a myriad of different issues:
- Contrasts in culture and misconceptions of certain nationalities within the BME community.
5) Tell me about your experience with growing up in a home with a single parent?
I feel that, an individual’s level of responsibility within a family automatically increases in the event that they are faced with being in a single parent household. In particular cases it can:
- Put more pressure on the child in relation to assisting the single parent with financial obligations.
- This sharp increase in responsibility is both positive and negative. In the negative sense this can cause the child(ren) growing up in single parent homes to neglect (or find difficulties managing) integral factors that are important in shaping the key formative and developmental years of their lives. E.g. (activities/talents/and areas of interest) a child(ren) living in single parent homes have an interest in pursuing which leads to lost opportunities, this in turn may create resentment with reference to interaction between child(ren) and the single parent in question.
- It can also cause a family to dwell on the absence of the parent that is no longer around creating negative connotations around the home environment that may be detrimental to promoting a positive family dynamic. A separate and related factor to this is that if the child in a single parent household has a similar likeness in both physical attributes and personality to the departed parent, this can create feelings of animosity towards the child as they are a constant reminder of the (loss/lack of presence) which creates stress when the single parent has numerous obligations being the primary point of call for that child. 3) In a situation, where extended families are quite large (which is common within the BME community) the child in a single parent household could end up being neglected because that particular single parent has obligations that extend beyond their duties owed to their existing nuclear family. 4) As there is more emphasis on self-sufficiency on the part of the child (ren) in single parent households to mitigate the effects of the lack of involvement from the absent parent, the child(ren) may become misguided when it comes to primary stress factors such as acquiring money to help contribute towards the family. Misguided meaning getting involved in illegal activity to make the process of acquiring funds faster.
Things you learnt?
It taught me not to be bound by my circumstances and have a proactive mind-set in the sense of using negatives to create positives.
Things you would change?
I can’t change anything.
9) Reflecting on your personal experience, what impact has the absence of your mother/father had on you as a man?
Personally, I learnt the importance of determination and the role it plays in facilitating the rise to self-sufficiency. As well as this, the circumstances surrounding my personal experience made me more goal orientated and driven in order to honour the memory of my father by living my life the way he raised me to live it. Additionally, the responsibility involved with living in a single parent household made me more mature, and conscious of the decisions I made and how that reflected on my family.
10) Do you think that absent fathers/mothers have a link with self-esteem, emotional and psychological distress and why?
Yes, undoubtedly because they are left with the residual feeling that they were not worth staying around and being involved in the family for. In common occurrences when there is animosity between mothers and fathers this can create a lot of external and internal conflict within the child(ren) perception of their parents. Best case scenario, they overcome these feelings of self-esteem and the psychological stress factors associated with abandonment issues as they grow into the realisation that the absence was predominantly due to the fact the parent in question did not possess the moral imperative to be an active part of the child’s life. Additionally, the absence of a parent can be an integral factor for a child having an appreciation for the importance of parenthood (because of the pain associated with abandonment); as well as simultaneously motivating them not to repeat the destructive cycle by having an active role in the lives of their children. Worst case scenario, such issues could cause personality issues that manifest it all aspects of their lives making integration into society difficult, which causes additional stress for the single parent tasked with the responsibility for looking after the child(ren).
11) In your view, do you feel there is an obvious difference between a child growing up with both parents in the home and a child growing up in a single parent home? If so what are these differences? (If so: Please explore the attitude of the parent you grew up with: resentful? independent? and how has this had an impact on you?)
Yes and no. The danger with making such generalisations is that it may lead to difficulties in combating the issue of single parenthood and its negative by-products. Children that grow up in single parent homes have demonstrated that they can have a certain resilience to the negative effects of that environment within the BME community. However, that does not mean that they are not susceptible to feeling/displaying self-destructive attitudes such as being resentment and anti-social behaviour etc. Similarly, positive intentions/attitudes can manifest themselves in different ways e.g. need for acceptance and belonging is an indicative part of human nature, however, due to the lack of parental framework, a child may seek this in the wrong areas of life e.g. gang culture because it is a surrogate for the void they feel in relation to a semblance of a family life. However, there are positive by-products of communities such as gangs as it can help foster a sense of togetherness, loyalty, honour, respect and other synonymous virtues despite being in pursuit of ultimately self-destructive behaviours associated with gangs in the BME community e.g. theft, violence and both the perpetuation and affirmation of damaging societal stereotypes. From a personal perspective I learnt to be strong-willed and proactive propelling myself forwards whilst concurrently having an understanding of why such attitudes are the wrong approach to take in life.
12) What advice can you give to any child growing up without a father/mother in the home?
50 Cent says it better than I do:
‘Every negative situation contains the possibility for something positive, an opportunity. It is how you look at it that matters. Your lack of resources can be an advantage, forcing you to be more inventive with the little that you have…It is the ultimate alchemy to transform all such negatives into advantages and power.’
Learn not to be bound by personal circumstances and have a proactive mind-set in the sense of using negatives to create positives. Doing this will inspire others around you from friends to family to follow you. Through adopting this particular mind-set you will end up establishing a set of principles that you never deviate from which will benefit you in the long term in every way you approach the mixed and varying challenges of life. The versatility that one gains from this will end up bringing you success in whatever you put your mind to.
13) What advice will you give an absent mother/father?
To encourage their children and not be too critical but nurturing and praising positive behaviour.
Divine, London UK