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Single Parenting Is Not Child Abuse

March 8, 2012 | Rachel Ehmke

A lawmaker in Wisconsin is trying to make single parenting even harder. Senator Glenn Grothman has introduced a bill that would require a state agency to "emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect."

We have a lot of trouble with this, of course. Parenting is tough for everyone, and the value of two engaged and present parents is clear, but conflating single parenting with child abuse is revolting. Unfortunately, it gets even worse, as the senator's argument against single parents is apparently rooted in "the role of fathers in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect." (The idea that women will contribute to child abuse and neglect without a male corrective is so absurd that we won't even discuss it here.)

It's worth pointing out that Grothman's position seems to be originating more out of politics than concern for the supposedly abused children of single families. As Lylah M. Alphonse writes at Yahoo! Shine, the senator believes that "the government urges women not to get married by making programs like low-income housing assistance, school choice, WIC, tax credits, and food stamps more attractive than marriage. 

Now, if a woman is ever in a situation where she considers food stamps more attractive than marriage then that says a lot more about the married life she is anticipating than any government swag. The truth is that women no longer need to settle for Mr. Wrong out of shame or stay in a bad marriage out of financial necessity.  We are lucky if we can find a good partner to help shoulder the burden (and share the joys) of parenthood, but we no longer need to force it, and thank goodness for that. Children who come from nuclear families but live in violent or unhappy homes have a much harder road than the ones raised by loving and responsible single parents. If you want a success story, you need look no further than the White House.

Single parenting isn't going anywhere. A recent study from the research group Child Trends found that most births occur outside of marriage for women under 30, pointing to a potential generational trend. Our own Health Editor Gail Saltz, MD, appeared on the Today show last year to discuss the increasing number of Hollywood stars who are choosing to be single moms (something tells me they aren't doing it for the food stamps). On the program Dr. Saltz was honest about the difficulties these children will face. Single parenting brings unique challenges to parents and children, there's no doubt about it. But we should focus on helping the kids instead of introducing legislation written to chastise women. 

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