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The Effects of Poverty on the American Family

Single Parent Families, Single Parent Family

The number of families living at or below the poverty level in the United States is estimated to be approximately 8.7 million according to the Census Bureau’s estimates in 2005. This is approximately 12% of all families in the US. Among minorities, the percentage climbs higher, with approximately 30% of African American children now living in poverty. Poverty has huge impacts on families. It effects all functions of the family from procreation to soical role placement.

Poverty directly effects the procreation of families, which in turn, impacts all other areas of the family. In most instances, families living in poverty have little access to medical care and routinely use the emergency room as their primary means of visiting a doctor. Because 78% of low wage workers do not have health insurance there is not a reasonable way to access the mass variety of birth control options now available to women. Birth control pills, patches, and injections require prescriptions. Living in poverty, many women simply cannot afford to purchase these birth control methods so procreation becomes a matter left to chance. Many women end up pregnant and for the first time may then be afforded medical care through medicaid. These women then go on to repeat the cycle, having more children.

Socialization in households effected by poverty is different than those houses not effected by poverty. Many parents who are low wage earners, work in jobs that require shift work, such as the fast food industry. Wanting to keep the job, no matter the low pay, parents must choose work over time spent with children. Mothers may work in the evening preventing them from conversing with their kids about their day at school. Fathers and mothers may choose to work opposite shifts so that children are not placed in daycare. With this arrangement, children get to see each parent but the family is not together much for family time.

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Economic Cooperation is absent in the family of a low wage worker. Most families living in poverty are a single parent family. In a year following divorce, the standard of living for women decreases by 27%, yet increases 10% for a man. This is to say that after a divorce, the women are often left to take care of the children and the men often only take care of themselves. Only 37% of single mothers actually collect child support. The other 63% are forced to live in poverty.

Families living in poverty also lack the ability to show love and intimacy. Parents often have to work more than one low wage job to take care of their family’s needs. When an overworked, over stressed parent comes home, many times they are too tired mentally and physically to show their children love. They cannot afford to take their children to a movie, much less a theme park. Also, parents cannot attend school functions, due to having shift work. Parents are also overstressed which can make them easily aggravated. A parent may yell at child without thinking about the effects on the child, all because they are overworked.

Social Role development is a little mixed up in families living in poverty. Due to single parent families, an older child may act in place of a parent. In most single parent families there is a lack of a father figure. Due to this lack of a father figure, girls yearn to find a man’s love and may use poor judgment in selecting men to date and mate. Boys never learn how to act in the role of a providor and protector of the family. Also, neither child may see the need for a two parent family, therefore they may never seek the union of marriage or will divorce their spouse early in a marriage.

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Regulation of sexual behavior is also an absent function in a family living in poverty. The family living in poverty may never find the time, due to work or stress, to talk to their children about these types of issues. Poverty also affects sexual behavior because the parents are often working, leaving the children to watch television for the guidance they need. The lack of parental supervision also leads the children to experiment, often causing an unwanted pregnancy. Therefore, recreating the cycle of poverty.

Poverty affects all functions of a family. One half of all people who started out poor, end up poor a decade later. The cycle of poverty is vicious and hard to break. Poverty affects all functions of a family from procreation to the regulation of sexual behavior.