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Broken homes & Baby Mamas: a peek into future families?

We live in a cosmetic world where problems are mostly covered up, not solved. Family is the most problematic aspect of life. Points of convergence and divergence exist in every human social construct. How many persons learn to handle issues of marital commitment is through partial affiliations. This is a situation whereby a couple desires children and live together but without any marital bonds. Their motivation is anything else but love. They have children and raise a family in pseudo-homes. These are environments that appear like homes but are not. In the most common sense, what is a home?


What is a home, heaven or hell?

The home is essential in the upbringing of a child. It is the first environment within a family, whether it is a happy one or not. It is the traditional nuclear family  – mother, father and children. These days, its parents and children for short. Irrespective of its composition, home is the smallest unit and microcosm of the larger society. The home has great influence on young peoples’ psychological, emotional, social and economic state. Hence, parents are the first socializing agents in a person’s life. Family background and context of a child affect his reaction to life situations and his level of performance. Family members are bound together in immeasurable love, care and understanding. However, no matter how ideal a family is in  terms of  their  relationship, hardships and misunderstandings still occur. If not handled properly, these issues split up the couple. Can we then say that a home is either a broken home or ‘just’ home?


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When the home is broken…

Broken home implies that children reside in single-parent households. It also describes any type of household other than one where both biological parents are present. In contrast, an “intact family” refers to a nuclear family arrangement where both biological parents live with their biological children. “Intact family arrangements” differ from other modern day family arrangements including single-parent arrangements, two-parent arrangements involving a step-parent, extended family arrangements, and the adoptive or foster family arrangement.

Broken homes are a global phenomenon and are usually characterised by parental separation and divorce. They usually have tremendous effects on all involved especially the children. Family breakdown is not a single event. It is a complex process that involves numerous risk and factors both before and after parental separation or divorce. When families disintegrate, children are greatly affected. They often end up with intellectual, physical and emotional scars  that  persist  for  life. Evidence indicates unequivocally that those children whose parents separate are at significantly greater risk than those whose parents remain together, for a wide range of adverse outcomes in social, psychological, and physical development. Therefore, broken homes are a threat to the wellbeing of children.


Broken homes harbour all sorts of health problems

Broken homes are a breeding ground for domestic violence (injury to child) and neglect. Some forms of neglect include physical neglect (withholding food, clothing, shelter or other physical necessities), emotional neglect (withholding love, comfort and affection) or medical neglect (withholding needed medical care). However, children from broken homes are at a great risk of numerous mental health problems. A study revealed that children from broken homes are more prone to various levels of dissociative experiences as well as psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia.  Schizophrenia is a mental illness in which a person becomes unable to link thought, emotion and behaviour; leading to withdrawal from reality and personal relationships. Other mental health problems that could result in children include anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), disruptive behaviour disorders, pervasive development disorders, eating disorders, learning and communication disorders, affective (mood) disorders and tic disorders. Although problems and difficulties associated with parental separation can decline over time, there is evidence that some effects are persistent and enduring. Adults who experienced parental separation in childhood have a higher probability of problems which included mental health and well-being, alcohol use, lower educational attainment and problems with relationships.


Broken homes predict poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes

Poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes are usually associated with adolescents who come from broken homes. Another report asserted that children from broken homes are more likely to get pregnant and give birth outside marriage, especially if the divorce occurred during their mid-teenage years and twice as likely to cohabit than are children of married parents. Moreover, broken homes appear to result in a reduction of the educational accomplishments of the affected children, weaken their psychological and physical health, and predispose them to rapid initiation of sexual relationships and higher levels of marital instability.


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Broken homes predict future poverty

A report suggests that broken homes have a direct relationship with poverty. The findings are as follows:

  • Children living with a single mother are six times more likely to live in poverty than are children whose parents are married.
  • Of families with children in the lowest quintile of earnings, 73 percent are headed by single parents; 95 percent in the top quintile are headed by married couples.
  • In 1994, over 12.5 million children lived in single-parent families that earned less than $15,000 per year; only 3 million such children lived with families who had annual incomes greater than $30,000.
  • Three-quarters of all women applying for welfare benefits do so because of a disrupted marriage or live-in relationship. Those who leave the welfare system when they get married are the least likely to return.
  • Cohabitation doubles the rate of divorce. Cohabitation with someone other than one’s future spouse quadruples the rate of divorce.
  • Divorce reduces the income of families with children by an average of 42 percent. Almost 50 percent of these families experience poverty.
  • Married couples in their mid-fifties amass four times the wealth of divorced individuals ($132,000 versus $33,600).
  • Children in step-families and single-parent families are almost three times more likely to drop out of school than are children in intact families.


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What can be done about broken homes?

Many young people find themselves caught up in the web of love and relationships. Celebrity trends show love without depth or commitment. There is a need for interventions that target children in broken homes. Projects that seek them out and work for safe spaces where they can thrive. Mobilization of communities to provide support is also desirable. Can any level of orientation reduce the incidence of queer family arrangements?


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