Media Portrayal of Omaha’s Single-Parent Families

 

Lauren Neal, Tessa Glatte, Zaid Alshakhs, Salma Al naabi

When looking at different family structures, single-parent families seem to have become very prevalent. In Nebraska, 20 percent of children live in a single parent household. This compares to 33 percent of children living in single parent households in Omaha (County Health Rankings, 2016). The data was gathered by looking at Omaha World Herald articles dated from 1984 to 2015. This wide range of dates allowed researchers to discover trends in how Omaha has portrayed its single parents over the last thirty-five years. The articles were gathered based on five themes: single mothers mentioned instead of single fathers, poverty, effects on the single parent, effects on children of single parents, and minority single parents.

Single mothers versus single fathers

An analysis of several Omaha World Herald articles showed that single mothers are mentioned more often than single fathers. This finding is important because it shows how single parents are typically viewed as women, even in Omaha. This makes it seem like women as single parents are not capable of a stable lifestyle. It also makes fathers look negligent because the fathers seem to be absent in children’s lives.

Many of the articles analyzed during the research focused on single, unwed mothers. An article by Paul Hammel discussed the minimum wage debate, and the one supporter of minimum wage that was interviewed for the article was a single mother from Omaha. This single mother had been a waitress and had taken second jobs to support herself and her son (2014). This alone portrays single mothers as being underclass and undereducated. An article entitled “Traditional family stronger in census” states that as of 1997, 23 percent of all households were headed by a single mother, in comparison to 5 percent being headed by single fathers (1998). These articles, while looking at single mothers as “bad parents” because they are financially unstable, also degrade these fathers whose children may not live with them, but they support their children financially and have partial custody. It’s also difficult for these mothers to be mom and dad if the father is out of the question and the mother has no other family. Often times these single mothers have to make the choice between working to care for their children financially, or taking work off to be there for their children emotionally.

An article written by Claire Cain Miller (2016) states that “women sometimes voluntarily choose lower-paying occupations because they are drawn to work that happens to pay less, like caregiving or nonprofit jobs, or because they want less demanding jobs because they have more family responsibilities outside of work.” The article continues, “Of the 30 highest-paying jobs, including chief executive, architect and computer engineer, 26 are male-dominated… Of the 30 lowest-paying ones, including food server, housekeeper and child-care worker, 23 are female dominated.” This proves the point that even though it seems like women are becoming financially unstable by choosing low-paying but flexible jobs, it is actually because of the wage gap and what jobs are seen as female-dominated. Looking at these facts, it’s easy to see why the typical single mother seems to be so financially unfit.

Poverty

A reoccurring theme that the research showed was the fact that many single parents have a financial incapability to care for their children properly. Many times the articles would state that a single mothers has two jobs just to make ends meet, or that single mothers are financially dependent on their parents. This research is beneficial because it shows the negative stereotype that surrounds single parents. Single parents are seen as financially unstable; therefore, mostly unfit to be successful parents.

The article entitled Divorce is a worthwhile target states that even in situations where the parent is single as a result of divorce, they are less well off financially (2001). This is due to the fact that the parent was used to receiving two incomes, but is now relying on only one. Lack of finances is the source of the other issues single parents face. Erin Duffy’s article found that “households subsisting on one income are more likely to live in poverty. That in turn increases the likelihood of a host of long-term consequences for kids: low grades, teen pregnancy, high dropout rates, and behavioral problems (2014).”

A scholarly journal article by Ronald Bulanda discusses the reason why single mothers may be “poor.” These reasons include their education being put on hold so they can raise their children, losing an income from divorce, not receiving child support, or making discriminatory wages. Income can have an impact on a child’s development. Poor single mothers are more apt to create limits and boundaries for their children than non-poor single mothers are (2008).

Negative Effects on Single Parents

Another theme that was found was that being a single parent negatively impacted the parents. One way the parents are impacted is that most of them have a hard time receiving higher education or even finishing high school. They also face financial problems which contribute to the problem of attending college. Since they cannot afford college, they are unable to potentially get a better job with higher income. It becomes a vicious cycle for them.

Single fathers face an issue that most single mothers don’t. Les Veskrna states a very real issue of the removal of fathers from their children’s lives after the breakup of a parenting relationship (2002). This can take a huge emotional toll on these fathers who don’t get to see their children. These fathers are expected to support their children financially, but aren’t allowed to take their children to the zoo or to a baseball game. Paul Hammel addresses another problem single parents face: these parents are working two full-time jobs and still are unable to “squeak by” and pay for essentials (2014).

Finances are the largest burden that single parents face, but they’re not the only issue. Judith Nygren interviewed a mother, Ms. Moran who stated, “…there’s a limited amount of me. I’m tired all the time – physically and emotionally.” The article goes on to discuss how all single parents struggle to juggle everything that’s expected of them: jobs, school, sports practices, chores around the house, and much more (1993). Single parents face more challenges than those with two parents. Another issue they face is that many single mothers are unwed and undereducated, due to the fact that it’s difficult to take care of a child and attend college at the same time; these mothers don’t have the finances to take their children to daycare. There is no extra money for daycare or babysitters so that these single parents can pursue higher education or even have a break every once in awhile.

Negative Effects of Single Parenting on Children

There are obviously many effects on children of single parents that were stated throughout the articles. This addresses the overall theme that being raised by a single parent has a harmful effect on children. Children are affected by single parenting in all aspects of their lives, whether it’s physical, emotional, social, or behavioral.

Divorce is one way that parents become single parents, and children of divorce are less well-off financially, physically and emotionally (“Divorce is a worthwhile target,” 2001). This article claims that “Children who live in single-parent homes have more problems with studies, drugs, and other challenges than children from two-parent households.” There are many contributors to the problems children with single parents face, but the main contributor is income. Julie Anderson discusses one effect: that children of single parents have increased risks of dropping out of high school, becoming single parents themselves, and engaging in criminal activity. Another issue is that the children don’t get to spend enough bonding time with their parents. According to Les Veskrna, 71 percent of Nebraska’s children under the age of 6 lives in families where either the single parent or both parents work outside the home; however, a child’s emotional stability is derived from his relationship with both parents (2002).

A scholarly journal written by Marloes de Lange, Jaap Dronkers, and Maarten H. J. Wolbers looks at how living in a single parent household affects a child’s academic performance. Many kids grow up in unstable homes in today’s world. Children need a lot of parental contact and children with single parents are deprived of that contact. Since they have less contact, restricted social resources, and probable low income, their education suffers (2014).

Single Parenting and Minorities

The last theme shows that the statistics for the minorities in the area vary from the statistics of those of typical white families. The minority most stated throughout the research was African Americans. This theme was included because it shows the negative stereotype of the “typical black person.” However, minority fathers in Omaha are trying to change the stereotype. This is important because it’s actually changing the way that Omaha citizens look at minority single parents.

Unfortunately, when looking at the research in the article The statistics are staggering (2009), “some 77 percent of African American students in the Omaha metropolitan area are living in poverty.” This article continues, saying that in 2007 the findings were that “49% of African American households earned less than $30,000 and from that, 69% percent of these households were headed by a single parent.” So this pattern of poverty for single parents, but especially for African American single parents, is definitely still apparent. One article does challenge the absent black father stereotype. Erin Duffy found that “several findings of a report released in December by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention counter the myth of the deadbeat black dad, finding that African American fathers reported participating in daily activities such as reading and dressing their children as often as fathers of other races whether they lived with their children full time or not.” Fathers and grandfathers of Miller Park know how difficult it can be to be raised without a father or male role model. “They have vowed to do better by their kids and show other young men what it means to be not just a dad, but a positive influence in North Omaha neighborhoods” (Erin Duffy, 2014).

Marianne Page and Ann Stevens found that that the economic costs of living with a single parent are larger for black children than for white children. Previous researchers have shown that children who grow up in single-parent families have lower incomes than children who grow up in two-parent families. As a result, family structure may be a more important determinant of black children’s economic resources (2005).

The Omaha World Herald articles that were examined portray single-parents in a negative way. Their financial incapability, undesirable stereotypes, and harmful effects on children is the cause for this negative label. This might reflect the average single parent but there are some single parents who break this description.  Single-parent problems persist in the City of Omaha.

 

Works Cited

Bulanda, Ronald E. “Beyond Provisions: The relationship Between Poverty Status and Parenting Among Single Mothers.” Marriage & Family Review 42.4 (2008): 63-87. Web. 23 Feb 016.

de Lange, Marloes, and Jaap Dronkers, and Maarten H. J. Wolbers. “Single-Parent Family Forms and Children’s Educational Performance in a Comparative Perspective: Effects of School’s Share of Single-Parent Families.” School Effectiveness & School Improvement 25.3 (2014): 329-350. Web. 22 Feb 2016.

“Divorce is a worthwhile target.” Omaha World Herald. 12 March 2001. Web. 29 February 2016.

“Douglas Country Demographics.” County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. 2016. Web. 18 April   2016.

Duffy, Erin. “School’s biggest resource: Dad- At Miller Park, students’ fathers play a major role in the school’s success.” Omaha World Herald. 21 March 2014. Web. 29 February 2016.

Hammel, Paul. “Both sides weigh in on minimum wage.” Omaha World Herald. 4 February  2014.  Feb. 29 February 2016.

Miller, Claire Cain. “As women take over a male-dominated field, the pay drops.” Economic  View.18 March 2016. Web. 2 May 2016.

Nygren, Judith. “Single Parents: nothing is easy rearing children alone.” Omaha World                             Herald. 13 July 1993. Web. 29 February 2016.

Page, M. E., & Ann, H. S. “Understanding Racial Differences in the Economic Costs of Growing Up in a Single-Parent Family.” Demography 42.1 (2005): 75-90. Web. 22      Feb 2016.

“The statistics are staggering.” Omaha World Herald. 19 November 2009. Web. 29           February 2016.

“Traditional family stronger in census.” Omaha World Herald. 28 May 1998. Web. 29 February   2016.

Veskrna, Les. “Don’t push fathers out of children’s lives.” Omaha World Herald. 28      February 2002. Web. 29 February 2016.