The Development of Children in Mother-Headed Families

  • E. Mavis Hetherington
  • Martha Cox
  • Roger Cox
  • Ira D. Glick
  • Carol F. Hoover


The incidence of children growing up in a mother-headed single-parent home in the United States is increasing. Over 10 million children currently are living in fatherless homes, largely because of the rapidly accelerating divorce rate, particularly in families that have young children. Fewer parents are “staying together for the sake of the children.” In 1975, there were more than 1 million divorces, and in each divorce an average of 1.22 children were involved. In contrast to the increasing divorce rate, the marriage rate has begun to drop. The ratio of divorces to marriages in the United States in 1975 was about 1:2, with 1,026,000 divorces and 2,126,000 marriages.


Single Mother Nuclear Family Maternal Employment Father Absence Masculine Role 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anspach, D. F. Kinship and divorce. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1976, 38, 330–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Apperson, L. B., and McAdoo, W. G., Jr. Parental factors in the childhood of homosexuals. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1968, 73, 201–206.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bach, G. R. Father-fantasies and father-typing in father-separated families. Child Development,1946, /7, 63–80.Google Scholar
  4. Bane, M. J. Discussion paper, health, education, and welfare. Policy toward children, youth, and families, 1977Google Scholar
  5. Barclay, A. G., and Cusumano, D. Father-absence, cross-sex identity and fielddependent behavior in male adolescents. Child Development, 1967, 38, 243–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bene, E. On the genesis of female homosexuality. British Journal of Psychiatry, 1965, 3, 815–821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bieber, I. Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study. New York: Basic Books, 1962.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Biller, H. B. Paternal Deprivation: Family, School, Sexuality, and Society. Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1974.Google Scholar
  9. Biller, H. B. The father and personality development: Paternal deprivation and sexrole development. In M. D. Lamb (Ed.), The Role of the Father in Child Development. New York: Wiley, 1976, pp. 89–156.Google Scholar
  10. Biller, H. B., and Bahm, R. M. Father-absence, perceived maternal behavior, and masculinity of self-concept among junior high school boys. Developmental Psychology, 1971, 4, 178–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Biller, H. B., and Borstelmann, L. J. Masculine development: An integrative review. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 1967, 13, 253–294.Google Scholar
  12. Blanchard, R. W., and Biller, H. B. Father availability and academic performance among 3rd grade boys. Developmental Psychology, 1971, 4, 301–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carlsmith, L. Effect of early father absence on scholastic aptitude. Harvard Educational Review, 1964, 34, 3–21.Google Scholar
  14. Cox, M. The Effects of Father Absence and Maternal Employment on the Development of Children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Virginia, 1974.Google Scholar
  15. Crescimbeni, J. Broken homes do affect academic achievement. Child and Family, 1965, 4, 24–28.Google Scholar
  16. Deutsch, M., and Brown, B. Social influences in Negro-white intelligence differences. Journal of Social Issues, 1964, 20, 24–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Douvan, E., and Adelson, J. The Adolescent Experience. New York: Wiley, 1966. Evans, R. B. Childhood parental relationship of homosexual men. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1969, 33, 129–135.Google Scholar
  18. Felner, R. D., Stolberg, A., and Cowan, E. L. Crisis events and school mental health referral patterns of young children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1975, 43, 305–310.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Finer, M. Report of the Committee on One-Parent Families. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1974, 2 vols. (Can be ordered from: The Government Bookshop, H.M.S.O., P.O. Box 569, London SE19NH, England).Google Scholar
  20. Fisher, S. F. The Female Organism: Psychology, Physiology, Fantasy. New York: Basic Books, 1973.Google Scholar
  21. Funkenstein, D. H. Mathematics, quantitative aptitudes and the masculine role. Diseases of the Nervous System, 1963, 24, 140–146.Google Scholar
  22. Glasser, P., and Navarre, E. Structural problems of the one-parent family. Journal of Social Issues, 1965 (January), 98–109.Google Scholar
  23. Gurin, G., Veroff, J., and Feld, S. Americans View Their Mental Health. New York: Basic Books, 1960.Google Scholar
  24. Herzog, E., and Sudia, C. E. Children in fatherless families. In B. M. Caldwell and H. Riccuiti (Eds.), Review of Child Development Research, pp. 141–232. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  25. Hess, R. D., Shipman, V. C., Brophy, J. E., and Bear, R. M. The Cognitive Environments of Urban Preschool Children. Graduate School of Education, University of Chicago, 1968. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 039 264.)Google Scholar
  26. Hess, R. D., Shipman, V. C., Brophy, J. E., Bear, R. M., and Adelberger, A. B., The Cognitive Environments of Urban Preschool Children: Follow-up Phase. Graduate School of Education, University of Chicago, 1969. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 039 270.)Google Scholar
  27. Hetherington, E. M. The effects of familial variables on sex-typing, on parent-child similarity and on imitation in children. Minnesota Symposium on Child Development, 1967.Google Scholar
  28. Hetherington, E. M. Effects of paternal absence on personality development in adolescent daughters. Developmental Psychology, 1972, 7, 313–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hetherington, E. M., Cox, M., and Cox, R. The aftermath of divorce. In J. H. Stevens, Jr., and Marilyn Matthews (Eds.)., Mother-Child, Father-Child Relations. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1977.Google Scholar
  30. Hetherington, E. M., Cox, M., and Cox, R. The Impact of Divorce on Children: A Longitudinal Study. Unpublished paper, 1978.Google Scholar
  31. Hoffman, M. L. Moral development. In P. Mussen (Ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology. New York: Wiley, 1970.Google Scholar
  32. Jacobson, G., and Ryder, R. G. Parental loss and some characteristics of the early marriage relationship. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1969, 39, 779–787.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Johnson, M. M. Fathers, mothers and sex typing. Sociological Inquiry, 1975, 45 (1), 15–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lamb, Michael The effects of divorce of children’s personality development. Journal of Divorce, 1977, 1.Google Scholar
  35. Langner, G. S., and Michael, S. T. Life Stresses and Mental Health. New York: Free Press, 1963.Google Scholar
  36. Lessing, E. E., Zagorin, S. W., and Nelson, D. WISC subtest and IQ score correlates of father absence. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1970, 117, 181–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lynn, D. B. The Father: His Role in Child Development. Belmont, Calif.: Brooks/Cole, 1974.Google Scholar
  38. Lynn, D. B., and Sawrey, W. L. The effects of father-absence on Norwegian boys and girls. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1959, 59, 258–262.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marsden, D. Mothers Alone: Poverty and the Fatherless Family. London: Allen Lane, Penguin Press, 1969.Google Scholar
  40. McCord, J., McCord, W., and Thurber, E. Some effects of paternal absence on malechildren. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology,1962 64361–369. Google Scholar
  41. Miller, W. B. Lower-class culture as a generating milieu of gang delinquency. Journal of Social Issues, 1958, 14, 5–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mischel, W. Father-absence and delay of gratification. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1961, 62, 116–124.Google Scholar
  43. Mueller, C. W., and Pope, H. Marital instability: A study of its transmission between generations. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1977, 39 (1, February), 83–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mussen, P. H., and Rutherford, E. E. Parent-child relationships and parental personality in relation to young children’s sex-role preferences. Child Development, 1963, 34, 589–607.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Nelson, E. A., and Maccoby, E. E. The relationship between social development and differential abilities on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 1966, 12, 269–289.Google Scholar
  46. Nye, F. I. Child adjustment in broken and in unhappy unbroken homes. Marriage and Family Living, 1957, 19, 356–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Oshman, H. P. Some Effects of Father Absence upon the Psychological Development of Male and Female Late Adolescents: Theoretical and Empirical Considerations. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1975.) Dissertation Abstracts International. 36, 919B–920B. (University Microfilms No. 75–16, 719 ).Google Scholar
  48. Pearlin, L. I., and Johnson, J. S. Marital Status, Life-Strains and Depression. Unpublished manuscript, 1975.Google Scholar
  49. Pope, H., and Mueller, C. W. The intergenerational transmission of marital instability: Comparisons by race and sex. Journal of Social Issues,1976, 321, (Winter), 149–166. Google Scholar
  50. Rees, A. H., and Palmer, F. H. Factors related to change in mental test performance. Developmental Psychology Monograph, 1970, 3, 1–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rosenberg, M. Society and the Adolescent Self-Image. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965.Google Scholar
  52. Rutter, M. Parent-child separation: Psychological effects on the children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1971, 12, 233–260.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Saghir, M. T., and Robbins, F. Male and Female Homosexuality. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1973.Google Scholar
  54. Santrock, J. W. Paternal absence, sex-typing, and identification. Developmental Psychology, 1970, 2, 264–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Santrock, J. W. Relation of type and onset of father-absence and cognitive development. Child Development, 1972, 43, 455–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Santrock, J. W. Father absence, perceived maternal behavior, and moral development in boys. Child Development, 1975, 46, 753–757.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Santrock, J. W., and Wohlford, P. Effects of father absence: Influences of, reason of, and onset of absence. Proceedings of the 78th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, 1970, 5, 265–266.Google Scholar
  58. Sears, P. S. Doll-play agression in normal young children: Influence of sex, age, sibling status, father’s absence. Psychological Monographs,1951, 65 (Whole No. 6).Google Scholar
  59. Sears, R. R., Rau, L., and Alpert, R. Identification and Child Rearing. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1965.Google Scholar
  60. Shinn, M. Father absence and children’s cognitive development. Psychology Bulletin, 1977, 85, 295–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Siegman, A. W. Father-absence during childhood and antisocial behavior. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1966, 71, 71–74.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Solomon, D., Hirsch, J. G., Scheinfeld, D. R., and Jackson, J. C. Family characteristics and elementary school achievement in an urban ghetto. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1972, 39, 462–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Spicer, J. W., and Hampe, G. D. Kinship interaction after divorce. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1975, 37, 113–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Stack, Carol B. Black kindrèds: Parenthood and personal kindreds among urban blacks. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 1972, 194–206.Google Scholar
  65. Suedfeld, P. Paternal absence and overseas success of Peace Corps volunteers. Journal of Consulting Psychology1967, 31, 424–425.Google Scholar
  66. Sutton-Smith, B., Rosenberg, B. G., and Landy, F. Father-absence effects in families of different sibling compositions. Child Development, 1968, 39, 1213 1221.Google Scholar
  67. Thompson, N. L., Schwartz, D. M., McCandless, B. R., and Edwards, D. A. Parent-child relationships and sexual identity in male and female homosexuals and heterosexuals. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1973, 41, 120127.Google Scholar
  68. Tuckman, J., and Regan, R. A. Intactness of the home and behavioral problems in children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1966, 7, 225–233.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. U.S. Bureau of the Census. Household and Family Characteristics. Current Population Reports Series P-20, No. 291, March. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976.Google Scholar
  70. Wallerstein, J., and Kelly, J. The effects of parental divorce: Experiences of the preschool child. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 1975, 14, 600616.Google Scholar
  71. Weiss, R. S. A preliminary examination of potential contributions of quality of life data to an understanding of single parenting, 1977, unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  72. Wohlford, P., Santrock, J. W., Berger, W. E., and Liberman, D. Older brothers’ influence on sex-typed, aggressive, and dependent behavior in father-absent children. Developmental Psychology, 1971, 4, 124–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Zajonc, R. B. Family configuration and intelligence. Science, 1976, 192, 227–236.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Mavis Hetherington
    • 1
  • Martha Cox
    • 2
  • Roger Cox
    • 3
  • Ira D. Glick
    • 4
  • Carol F. Hoover
    • 5
  1. 1.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.University of EvansvilleEvansvilleUSA
  3. 3.Indiana State UniversityTerre HauteUSA
  4. 4.Payne Whitney ClinicCornell University and New York Hospital Medical CenterNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.National Institute of Mental HealthBethesdaUSA

Personalised recommendations