In a World of Hurt – Canadian Children with Few Siblings and no Father

Children may suffer from neglect in any type of home; they may develop debilitating psychological or behavioral problems in any type of home. However, in a large national study recently completed at the University of Manitoba, researchers concluded that the Canadian children who suffer from neglect disproportionately come from single-parent homes, typically homes without fathers. They further conclude that the number of children who manifest symptoms of “functional impairment” also runs alarmingly high in homes without fathers—and in homes where children live with few or no siblings. Recognizing the pressing need “to identify the child and household characteristics that are associated with specific types of child maltreatment and child functional impairment,” the Manitoba scholars dissect data collected for 6,163 children at 112 child-welfare sites across Canada, all children investigated after government officials received allegations of child abuse or neglect. These data repeatedly raise troubling questions about the well-being of children who never see their fathers and who enjoy few or no ties to sisters or brothers. First, the researchers document a “high prevalence of single-parent homes . . . for substantiated cases of neglect.” (Other household types associated with such cases of neglect include those which regularly run out of money and those which depend on government assistance.) Indeed, over half (51%) of all substantiated cases of neglect involved children from single-parent homes. Predictably, neglect is associated with increased odds of child functional impairment.  But so too is family structure. The researchers conclude that “single-parent homes . . . were . . . associated with increased odds of child functional impairment,” even in statistical models that account for child and household characteristics, such as the age of the children and the financial strain on the household. (Other circumstances adversely affecting
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