A study comparing the well-being of children growing up in single-mother-by-choice and heterosexual two-parent families has found no differences in terms of parent-child relationship or child development. However, the study did find that the single-mothers-by-choice did have a greater social support network.
"Children in both family types are doing well in terms of their well-being," said investigator Mathilde Brewaeys from the Centre of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria of the VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam. "Single-mothers-by-choice and their children benefit from a good social support network, and this should be emphasised in the counselling of women who want to have and raise a child without a partner." Ms Brewaeys will present the results of the study today at the 33rd Annual Meeting of ESHRE in Geneva.
Fertility treatment of single women is now available in most European countries and is an increasingly popular procedure for single women who wish to become pregnant without a partner (ie, single mothers by choice).(1,2)
Some specialists have raised concerns about the well-being and development of these children. "The assumption that growing up in a family without a father is not good for the child is based mainly on research into children whose parents are divorced and who thus have experienced parental conflict," explained Ms Brewaeys, "However, it seems likely that any negative influence on child development depends more on a troubled parent-child relationship and not on the absence of a father. Single-mothers-by-choice knowingly make the decision to raise their child alone, in contrast to unintended single mothers. Little research has been done on the specific features of these single-mothers-by-choice families and whether there are differences between them and heterosexual two-parent families in terms of parent-child relationship, parental social support and well-being of the children."
The study described by Ms Brewaeys was a comparison of 69 single-mothers-by-choice (who had knowingly chosen to raise their child alone) and 59 mothers from heterosexual two-parent families with a child between the ages of 1.5 and 6 years. Parent-child relationships, mothers' social support network and children's well-being were compared between family types according to three validated questionnaires. The analysis drew three main conclusions:
Based on these results Ms Brewaeys reported that children growing up with single-mothers-by-choice appeared to enjoy a similar parent-child relationship as those in heterosexual two-parent families.
Ms Brewaeys explained that the support systems welcomed by the single mothers were either informal or formal: the former could be parents, other family, friends, neighbours or a nanny, while the latter included teachers, family doctors, paediatricians, television programmes or articles about child rearing.
"A strong social network is of crucial importance," said Ms Brewaeys. "So I would recommend that all women considering single motherhood by choice make sure of a strong social network -- brothers, sisters, parents, friends of neighbours. And to never be afraid to ask for help.
Ms Brewaeys pointed to earlier studies investigating the profile of this new group of single mothers. The great majority, she said, would have preferred to have a child a with a partner. But as fertility time was running out, they opted to do so alone. Most women in her study were financially stable, had received a higher education and had meaningful partner relationships in the past.
Fertility treatment for single women is an increasingly popular procedure, but there are no exact numbers yet available, even in countries with detailed IVF registries.
Materials provided by European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Cite This Page: