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Stressors That Impact Single Mothers Who Are in College Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 7th, 2022

Executive summary

According to government statistics, single parenthood is on the rise in all developing countries. The same statistics also reveal that there is an increase on the number of single mothers enrolling as students in different academic institutions. The biggest number is in community colleges and universities. There are several reasons why people end up as single mothers. They include divorce, early pregnancy, death of a spouse and in a few cases, it is out of choice. Challenges facing college single mothers are classified into financial, psychological, emotional and time.

From the study, it is evident that single parenthood is a hard task for every single mother whether they are students, full time employees or not. It is also evident that school posses as a significant stress to their lives. 90% of the single mothers who participated in the survey agreed that school is a big source of stress for them both financially, psychology, emotionally and a big challenge when it comes to time management. 60% of the participants noted that they struggled with their fees, suffered higher levels of stress during exam times and were not able to work as many hours as they would want to.

Viable solutions offered in this study include counseling, education on how to deal with the challenges facing them, financial help from the government, better legislation to allow more rights for single mothers in college, and more flexible academic schedules for them. The report also proposes further research on the subject to allow concerned authorities understand how such a situation could impact a nation in the long run if the students are not accorded all the necessary help.

Single parenthood

Introduction

Single parenthood is on the rise in many nations especially the western region. The trend is expected to continue as divorce rates go up and people’s lifestyles change. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recently reported that 30% of children in the country are living with single parents (Office of National Statistics, 2010). This number is expected to go as high as 50% by 2050 if nothing is done to influence the trend. Statistics reveal that at any particular time, the number of single mothers is bigger than that of single fathers. From past research, it is also evident that single mothers face bigger challenges than those faced by single fathers. As Family Service America (2009) puts it, “raising a child or children single handedly in the modern times is a very difficult task both financially and psychologically”.

There are several reasons why people end up as single mothers such as divorce, early pregnancy, death of a spouse and in a few cases, it is out of choice. The are many single parents today enrolling in high schools, community colleges, universities, and other academic institutions in their quest to further their education and make the future easier for them and their children. Major challenges facing single mothers can be categorized into four groups; emotional, economical, psychological and time. Research reveals that due to such challenges, single mothers are at a higher risk of suffering from psychological ailments such as depression and stress. This paper focuses on stressors that impact single mothers who are college students and looks at how school in itself is a stressor for them.

Literature review

To understand the background of the problem, several books, journal articles and government statistics were studied. The resources proved very helpful in trying to understand how the issues of education, single parenthood and mothers interact. They were also used to understand how school relates to all the other issues affecting single mothers in school.

The Family Service America organization addresses the different family structures in America and the different settings for the families. According to the book compiled by the organization, education to parents and children from two parented families on single parenthood would help the communities understand and appreciation the different family structures that exist right now to avoid prejudice. Parents should also take the responsibility of instilling values that insist on respect for other family structures and cultural differences. Respect for other children from parents should be maintained and serve as an example to their children to respect people regardless of their family setups.

Forney and Nancy address the issue of students’ development in college. They argue that since it is already challenging for everyone else, it can be extremely challenging for people who already have other responsibilities, especially for a single parent. They argue that the biggest challenge facing single mothers in college is the psychological burden of being criticized and judged among fellow students and lack of support. Stress levels for them are high, mostly from worries about all the other challenges facing them such as finances and time management. The authors point out that single mothers in college have to work odd jobs and do it for longer hours to pay their fees and make ends meet.

The same sentiments are argued by McGeary and Laurence, who discuss urban change and poverty. According to the authors, the increased number of single parents, and especially among students, has contributed largely to the levels of poverty in different developed countries. The authors argue that as more single parents move to the urban region in search of better job opportunities and education opportunities, the rate of joblessness increases and more people get poorer. For single mothers in school, they spend a lot of money on their academic expenses, leaving them with very little left to spend on other things. As a result, the economy is slowed down and poverty levels increase.

MacLanahan and Gary discuss the different challenges facing single mother in college. According to them, the biggest challenge facing single mothers in college is finances. They not only have to survive with one income but also have to split it between taking care of their children, themselves and taking care of their academic financial needs. The other significant challenge is psychological. Stress levels are high, mostly from worrying about all the other challenges facing them such as parenthood and time management.

The authors point out that single mothers in college have to work odd jobs and do it for longer hours to pay their fees. As a result of this, they have little time to spend with their children. A majority may start feeling inadequate as mothers for not spending enough time with their children and not being able to give their children a better lifestyle, especially for those whose income does not allow them the luxuries of life. All these factors create a sense of inadequacy and cause high levels of stress. Other challenges discussed by the authors are emotional and time management.

In his books, Garfinkel discusses the roles of government support for single mothers and outlines measures that single mothers can take to access help from the government. The author argues that the tough economic times have made it harder for single mothers in college to survive even as most governments in developed countries try to help these single mothers through grants and food coupons. According to the author, developed countries have been on the forefront in providing support for single mothers by offering adequate information about how their citizens can get help. They have also have done this by establishing government health covers that allow the single mothers in school to access health care at a much cheaper cost. By so doing, mothers can focus more on other financial needs such as paying fees and school becomes a reduced burden for them.

Kinnear offers viable solutions for single mothers in school to manage the challenges that arise from being students. From the journal of social issues Jayakody and Dawn also offer solutions to the psychological and emotional issues facing single mothers in school such as counseling and education on important topics such as time management. The authors point out that being in school for single mothers is very stressing, especially for those who have no support from families and friends. The time spent with their children is little and that spent working is less compared to that spent by other students with part time jobs. Several governmental and non-governmental data sheets offered a good understanding of the position of the issue. The CoAbode Organization and Office of National Statistics were among the sources used. The statistics reveal that schools are now enrolling a big percentage of single mothers, some having up to7% of their entire population as single mothers. These statistics are higher in the higher institutions of learning.

Challenges facing single mothers

Economical

One of the most significant challenges facing single mothers in college is finance. They not only have to survive with one income but also have to split it between taking care of their children, themselves and taking care of their academic financial needs such as fees. Colleges and universities with hostel facilities do not allow parents to stay with their children in school. While other students may stay in college hostels which are far much more affordable, single parents have to rent houses outside school increasing the cost of education for them.

Single mothers in college may not be able to enjoy other affordable facilities in school such as cheaper food in the school canteen since they have someone else to take care of at home. They therefore have to shop for food, pay rent and other expenses that go into running a home, costs that would be considerably reduced if they stayed in school hostels for colleges that offer those services. Living outside school also creates other costs such as transport and delays to and from class when there is bad weather or traffic.

Like every other single parent, single mothers in college have to ensure that their income is enough to run the home. They are faced with the responsibility of ensuring their children are well fed, clothed and housed like every other child. It is also their responsibility to pay fees for them, take care of their medical bills and any other needs that require financial attention. The children have to have a normal life as possible, even though it has to be done with one income. Single mothers miss out on many financial benefits that married couples enjoy such as joint tax return and joint medical covers, all which save couple a lot of money.

Psychological

The biggest challenges facing single mothers in college is the psychological burden of being unaccepted among some people and lack of support. According to Family Service America (2009), more than half of single mothers in college have been treated for clinical stress at one particular time of their lives after getting a baby. Stress levels are high, mostly from worrying about all the other challenges facing them such as finances and time management. Single mothers in college have to work odd jobs and do it for longer hours to make ends meet. As a result of this, they have little time to spend with their children. A majority may start feeling inadequate as mothers for not spending enough time with their children and not being able to give their children a better lifestyle, especially for those whose income does not allow them the luxuries of life. All these factors create a sense of inadequacy and causes high levels of stress.

According to Forney and Nancy (2010), “psychological effects of stress are usually more subtle.” Prolonged and neglected stress increases the intensity of the effects and if untreated can end up being tragic. The most common psychological effect of stress is depression, which is common among college single mothers. The effects of untreated depression are negative not just on them but also on the immediate family, friends, colleagues and everyone close to them, most importantly their children. Insomnia is the most common negative effect of depression. Sleep deprivation then takes toll on their physical and mental health because of constant mental fatigue as a result of less sleep and rest. All these effects negatively affect their performance in school and their parental abilities.

Depression leads to irritability, a feeling of helplessness and long crying spells. These effects mostly increase during the night as a result of frustrations trying to sleep and continued thoughts of difficulties or changes they may be experiencing after joining school. This, followed by deterioration in hygiene and poor eating habits which are common characteristic of depression only makes the situation worse. At a professional level, depression makes it hard to adhere to work and school schedules and rules, and it becomes hard to meet deadlines or to deliver under pressure which can result in job loss and many times class dropouts.

As noted by McGeary and Laurence (2004), stress creates a sense of continued sadness and anger, which affects self worth and self esteem as well as escalating irritability. The smallest inconveniences arouse high levels of anger and angry reactions which can be fatal if unattended to urgently and effectively. It also becomes very hard to be effective at home, at work and in school since it becomes impossible to work with people. It is completely impossible to handle group work with constant sadness spells and anger attacks. It is therefore not uncommon to see bright single mothers perform poorly in school and some cases even drop out completely. Quality of life is completely reduced since it is hard to be impressed or to find happiness in anything.

Another psychological effect of stress is anxiety disorders. This manifests in panic attacks, forgetfulness, clumsiness, sweating or extreme mood swings. It makes it hard to concentrate, focus or communicate consistently and effectively. It also becomes hard to relate to other people at an emotional level and becomes hard to have healthy interpersonal relationships. When such symptoms manifest, it becomes hard to be a good parent escalating the problems even further. Most of the psychological problems arise from academic challenges and escalate during exams.

Time

Time management for single mothers is a more significant challenge than it is for couples with children. Finding a quality childcare is a major challenge for all parents, especially for single mothers who do not have the option of living the children with their spouse at home. When the children are still young, safety is paramount and a challenge for parents who have to leave the children with a baby-sitter, many times a stranger. The parents are forced to make many trips home more times to check on their children and confirm they are safe.

Juggling work, school and work is a major challenge for one person. Time becomes even more hectic for those who do not have any form of help from their families or the baby’s father. The have to work late to give their children the same kind of life given by couples who have two incomes, since most of their daytime hours are spent in school. For students in high school and community colleges or those pursuing their first degree at the university, their academic qualifications may not allow them a permanent job in a well paying company. Therefore, most of the mothers have to work more than one job to afford the high cost of life parents have to incur. Even for those single mothers with good jobs in big company, the responsibilities that come with such positions demand for more time and attention, making it hard for them to juggle between career, academics and parenthood.

Children require their parents make time for their sporting activities, medical check-ups, school activities and other important processes of growing up. For students with more than one child and those whose children are already in school, the challenge even gets bigger. Since the children’s happiness and safety is at stake when there is no attention from parents, they have very few choices left but to ensure all these activities are fitted in their day. The results are fatigued single mothers who find it hard to concentrate in school and at work, and end up performing poorly in both or even develop medical challenges.

Emotional

Emotional support is a big determinant of how well people can manage their lives. For parents, emotional support from the other spouse is considered paramount for a happy family and proper parenting. Single mothers lack the proper support from the fathers of their children. For those living away from their immediate families, it is not possible to get the same support from friends, neighbors and the people around them. In the case where the baby’s father is willing to support and visit the child, the burden may be slightly lighter but not completely resolved. Many times high school and college students tend to get children with fellow students who may not be in a capacity to help financially and are too afraid to face their responsibilities as fathers.

The law has gone a long way in ensuring fathers take responsibility for their children but only addresses the financial aspect of the problem. Even for single mothers in college who may not be struggling financially, the emotional burden may be too much to bear. Feelings of rejection and not being able to offer their children a “perfect” family may be overwhelming. Many of them are constantly stressed and have lives characterized by little or no sleep at all, which in turn causes clumsiness, weight loss, fatigue and daytime sleepiness since complete sleeplessness cannot be achieved. This is evident by the number of mothers who stay awake and are unable to perform optimally during the day.

Managing the problems

Many single mothers in college are stressed and emotionally burdened. Stress alters the body and brain’s functioning. “The body becomes sensitized to stress and the slightest hint of stress triggers a chain of chemical reactions in the brain and body which then affects normal functioning of certain body organs” (MacLanahan & Gary, 2005). Stress directly affects a part of the nervous system which is responsible for glands, heart, respiratory, digestive and skin control. When these organs’ functions are affected, the results could include pain, digestive disorders, headaches and irritable bowel movements. Any pre-existing physical medical conditions can also be aggravated when certain organs are not functioning optimally. Medical complications that are associated to stress include diabetes, back pains, heart disease, depression, obesity, autoimmune disease and skin conditions like eczema.

In extreme situations, heart attacks and other cardiac complications might easily occur due to continuous adrenaline alterations. Acute stress such as being caught up in traffic after leaving home late or suddenly realizing that one have been studying for the wrong exam causes an abnormal increase in heart beats and heart muscles contractions. Repeated episodes of such contractions can easily cause for heart attacks and other fatal medical challenges. For single mothers in college, anything that has potential to stress needs to be dealt with before they develop to challenges that may hard to resolve later on in life.

For psychological challenges, the first step towards managing them is to acknowledge that one is suffering from them. It is also good for people to acknowledge that stress is good but when it exceeds a particular limit it becomes a negative energy that greatly distorts our mental and physical functioning and leads to depression (Garfinkel, 2008). After acknowledging this, it is very important to establish the causes of these psychological challenges and the circumstances that escalate the situation. It could be poor time management, a sick child, a tough academic unit or total lack of support from parents and family. Making a list of stress triggers will help college single mothers keep off such environments. In the case of tasks that take stress levels up, such as exams, interviews, presentations and deadlines, early and sufficient preparation before such tasks as well as asking for help when handling them will help reduce panic attacks and considerably reduce the stress levels associated with them.

Single mothers in college should be encouraged to read for their exams early to avoid late preparations. Investing in a good child care is important to allow them be at peace and more attentive in class and work during the day. Schools should also try to initiate school groups that allow them manage their challenges more easily such as being able to get a deadline extension when faced with unavoidable situations such as a child’s sickness. Schools can also put in place measures that allow easy access to professional help for them. Counseling, rehabilitation and group programs should be made available at a school and state level and be easy to access. There should be a realization that if unattended to, even low levels of depression and other psychological challenges can lead to chronic depression and increased levels of school dropouts. Sometimes, it also feels safer for the single mothers in school to reveal their problems to a professional than to people who know them as some of the experiences may be too embarrassing to disclose to people who know them personally.

Financially single mothers should seek professional help on how to plan and budget for their incomes. Financial challenges seem to be bigger for younger mothers and high school students than it is for more mature mothers. The fact that most high school students are young means that they lack proper capability to budget appropriately and manage finances. The government and schools must set up channels that offer advice for them and helps them deal with financial challenges. The government and private schools must help these students by considering them in scholarship programs. Since many schools offer many casual jobs, they should consider the single mothers when hiring to allow them a more convenient working arrangement, which will also allow them to solve the time challenges facing them.

It is very essential to develop a team support from family, friends, the schools and the government. The rest of the school and the community needs to understand what the single mothers go through. If family, friends and the community are too judgmental or harsh on a victim, it brings about protective mechanisms like withdrawal which will only serve to make the situation worse. The mothers are many times at a point where a lot of encouragement, support and assurance are needed, especially if they easily get into depression after failed attempts of a project, failed exams, loss of a job, a child’s health position or any other activity that may leave one feeling like a failure.

Ineffective coping techniques

Ineffective mechanisms can be categorized to different groups. Defense mechanisms include those things single mothers in college do to protect themselves from judgment by the people around them. They include withdrawal tendencies where they tend to keep to themselves and avoid or minimize interactions with the rest of the world. Keeping to oneself only aggravates the situation since it blocks people from helping them and the time spent alone is used to dwell on the problems or the original causes of stress. It is a very unhealthy behavior which in many circumstances cause personality disorders.

Avoidance mechanisms include running away from the issues or denial. It is where the real causes of the stress are not addressed but just put temporarily on hold. In a work situation, avoiding the lecturer for poor performance in school or refusing to seek help just keeps the problem unresolved and most of the times end up getting deeply rooted. It may also include use of alcohol or other substances that temporarily help boost their moods and forget their challenges.

Avoidance mechanisms may also include bolting up anger and discomfort instead of talking about it. This commonly happens to these people who do believe confessing one’s struggle is a weakness. It is damaging because with time the anger gets to explosive levels and does so when it is not easily treatable as it has elevated to a secondary level which is then harder to deal with. Such adapting mechanisms may lead to suicide attempts or compulsive disorders.

Attack mechanisms include pushing their discomfort to other people. By making it difficult for others or blaming other people for their problems, single mothers in college may make people around them suffer for what they are going through. It can lead to a poor relationship between fellow students, lecturers and other school administrators. Their group work in school suffers and it becomes hard to achieve group targets because of reduced or no cooperation and the rest of the group members suffer as a result.

Self harming mechanisms are mechanisms that could hurt them. They may be helpful but only temporarily. These include alcohol consumption, smoking or drug abuse. Most of the time we people are feeling unhappy, they tend opt to the nearest anti-depressants available, some of which are helpful and some quite destructive. Such cases have been reported among single mothers in college and some have ended up dropping out of school instead. A big group of people who have suffered depression are known to have tried at least one of the substances mentioned above. Prolonged stress conditions results in prolonged use of these substances which could then lead to addiction. The effects of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs are extreme on both physical and emotional health and most importantly to their academic work.

Challenges facing children with single parents

The biggest challenge that children with single parents go through includes prejudice on both personal and institutional levels (Kinnear, 2007). Lack of legislation to prevent this and lack of support from peers could prove very challenging. The single parent in some cases is not as recognizable as when two parents are together. Children with a single parent may also have to live with the consequences of being discriminated against or teased and this can be very confusing to children who come from a dad and mum relationship. The result is unsettled parents who worry for their children and are not able to concentrate in class like everyone else.

As Jayakody and Dawn (2002) observe, being viewed by peers as not normal can create emotional conflict. Some peers may also view these children as a threat to the mainstream culture which has led to bullying and teasing in school especially where the teachers don’t take the responsibility of educating themselves, the community and other children on the issue. Such factors can increase the child’s vulnerability to mental breakdown, behavioral problems and psychological challenges in future. In many cases, children are not able to discuss the issues facing them freely with the fear of being chastised by the mainstream community. When such things happen, the parents may need to spend more time with the children reassuring and protecting them and not have enough time for their academics.

Positive traits adopted from single parenting

Due the challenges that these children face, their character traits are developed at a young age and most of them grow up with strong characters and apathy for other people in special circumstances or with special needs. These children grow up as more tolerant too and have an easy acceptance of diverse and extreme family structures and other situations in life. If their parents can integrate good moral values in them amid all the challenges, these children are more patient and they generally have positive outlook on day to day issues.

Children with a single parent have an easier time accepting themselves and adjusting to their kind of lifestyles than children from both parents. They also have more support from their parents and are not afraid of the challenges they have to go through. Single parents tend to be more protective of their children and tend to spend more time with them. For students, they may be denied the chance since they have to give time to their studies.

Helping children with single parents cope

Education to both couples and their children on single parenthood would help the communities understand and appreciate the different family structures in our communities (Quinn & Katherine, 2007). Parents should also take the responsibility of instilling values that insist on respect for other families’ lifestyles and cultural differences. Respect for the other children from parents should be good as an example to their children to respect other people regardless of their family setups.

Single parents face a lot of challenges too and they can use these challenges to teach their children about consideration and apathy for other people in similar situations. Teaching children on upholding family values should be given priority rather than the importance of family structures. Children should also be taught about these issues when they are still young before their opinions are influenced by the society. Children with single parents should be helped to understand their family structures and why it would attract heavy attention from the people around them. They should also be prepared for challenges they may face while growing up as well advised on how to deal with them. With such levels of reassurance, it becomes easier to parent them and their mothers have more time to commit to their studies.

Arguments against single parenthood

It is argued that children raised by a single parent only learn one model of family in their early years. These could influence their decision on marriage and the kind of families they want in future. However research has shown that single parenting does not influence the children decision on their family structures, sexual orientation or any other element of life when they grow up. These children are just as likely to have normal families as those parented by two people. Moreover, children raised by two parents are just as likely to be single parents as those brought up by a single parent.

Most religious beliefs prohibit single parenting and define a family as man, woman and children. Allowing these kinds of families therefore is offensive to people who hold these religious beliefs strongly. This is very evident especially in Muslim countries where the concept of single parenthood is taken with extreme criticism and bias. This would make it impossible for single parents to raise their children because their parenthood is not accepted. In such places, it may be hard for single mothers to get academic opportunities in the higher institutions of learning and for those who do, the environment may be too hostile for them to bear.

In Christian and Muslim countries, it’s believed that the countries values should be based on their religious teachings. To go against the teachings is therefore interpreted as losing a county’s values. Some countries take this very seriously and this is evident by the number of protests that take place each day all over the world protesting against getting children out of wedlock, especially in Muslim countries.

Fathers are believed to play a very big role in boys’ growth and the same is with mother and girls. With single parents, this element is missing and children may not have the sufficient influence from the parent of the opposite sex. People against single parenthood have argued that children brought up in such environments are more likely to have attention deficiency and personality crisis disorders although research carried out has not been able to prove this.

Even though single parent families are considered more stable than other families with two parents, there is high prevalence of drug abuse, alcohol, depression and even suicide among single parents. Continued exposure to such an environment may affect the children and may lead to high levels of depression among the children when they are adults. Children who are constantly exposed to these kinds of habits also tend to experiment at such an early age on the same and could grow up experiencing struggles with the same habits as their parents.

Children brought up by single parents and their parents may suffer criticism at school by their peers and this may weigh heavily on self esteem which could cause other deviated tendencies like alcoholism and drugs. In countries where single parenthood is still heavily criticized, the both the lives of the child and the mother could be in danger both from their peers and from the society.

Government responsibilities and legislation

The fact that many governments are slowly acknowledging the problems faced by single mothers is good news for them. Many times mothers have more parental responsibilities towards their children than fathers. As more children continue to be born outside wedlock, the issue of legal parental responsibilities continues to attract more attention (CoAbode Organization, 2010). While the law is not very clear on this issue, the key roles of a parent include providing a home for a child, protecting the child, providing basic needs and education to the child, naming the child, being responsible for their property if any, and disciplining the child among many other responsibilities.

Economically, the tough times have made it harder for single mothers in college to survive. Most governments in developed countries today help these single mothers through grants and food coupons in some situations. The United States government has been on the forefront in offering support for single mothers by running a website that contains information about how college single mothers can get help from the different states. Other countries such as the UK have also put in measures to ensure that single mothers easily access help, especially if they can prove that they are not in a position to take care of their children’s needs.

Government health covers also allow the single mothers in school to access health care at a much cheaper cost. By so doing, mothers can focus more on other financial needs such as paying fees. Government scholarship funds also provide an opportunity to some of the mothers to go through school with a less financial burden. For those who qualify and are granted scholarships, the burden of paying fees during the tough times does not have to affect their studies.

Methodology

The research methodology applied in this paper included study of books, academic journals, online articles, past projects by different authors, government statistics and interviews with experts in the subject of psychology and parenting. It also included a study of various works on single parenthood especially in the developed countries. Study of books and different articles reveals that single parenthood is a challenge for developed countries. It is a big challenge for the parents as individuals and the nation, perhaps from a realization that such situations can be a big threat for the development and progress of a country if not dealt with appropriately.

It is also clear that many countries are spending a lot of money to ensure both children and parents enjoy equal opportunities regardless of their marital status. Such information was collected from various reports by governmental and non-governmental organizations. These reports proved very effective and relevant in trying to understand this paper’s concept. Recent and past books and research papers by different authors were also helpful in understanding single parenthood, especially for students.

Questionnaires were used to collects data and information. They were directed at single mothers in high schools, universities and other academic institutions. This was to get everyone’s view and take on the matter. The questionnaires were distributed to 100 single mothers, aged between 18 and 50 years. The questions were easy and straight forward, making it easy for all the participants to answer them regardless of their level of education. All the 100 questionnaires distributed were well filled and returned. Ten of them were not well filled, rendering them spoilt data.

Another method of data collection included interviews. Several employees in educational institutions were interviewed. There were also interviews with government officials and professionals in the field to understand the role of the government in helping single mothers with the stressful challenges they face. Another interview was with Dr. Ali Al Numairy, the president of the women, infants and children (WIC) association, which was done on phone. The purpose of this interview was to understand the role of the different governmental institutions in helping single parents deal with the various challenges that face them, particularly single mothers in college. It was meant to understand the country’s preparedness and legislation that have been put in place to ensure that single mothers in college can have equal access to all the facilities offered by the education systems and benefits that come with it. Views from fellow students were collected to get their views on the subject and how it affects them and people they know.

Data analysis

From the data collected, it is evident that single parenthood is a hard task for every single mother whether they are students, full time employees or not. It is also evident that school posses as a significant stress to their lives. 90% of the single mothers who participated in the survey agreed that school is a big source of stress for them both financially, psychology, emotionally and a big challenge when it comes to time management. 60% of the participants noted that they struggled with their fees, suffered higher levels of stress during exam times and were not able to work as many hours as they would want to.

From the statistics, an overwhelmingly 95% of the participants do not think their children are an obstacle in their path to economic freedom but note that parenthood is a big obstacle in their academic journey. Majority of the mothers felt that their children were the most significant and precious part of their lives and they would not trade them for an otherwise lifestyle. Majority also named their children as the biggest motivation in their academics and the reason they wished to improve their lives. Even those who got children while in school claimed they were more motivated and willing to work harder for the sake of their children. The remaining percentage was either not sure or simply thought they would be in a better financial position if they didn’t have their children.

From the statistics, the mothers felt that the academic institutions had not done enough to support them do better in their academics. This is largely because their status is not considered when tutoring, giving assignments or offering exams. A majority of the participants argue that tutors ought to be more considerate of single mothers when giving assignments and awarding marks to different tasks. For example, single parents deserve longer deadlines to deliver their assignments, because they may be faced with more uncertainties such as their children falling ill.

From the statistics, financial issues seem to be the biggest source of stress for single mothers in college. 90% of the participants pointed out economic stress as the biggest challenge for them. This is especially so because a big percentage of their income has to go to school fees. It is also because they have to spend money on transport to and from school for those who live further from school, printing and photocopying assignments and research papers, among many other expenses that come with class work.

Emotionally, majority of the single mothers agreed that school work was too involving for them. Assignments, group works, research papers and exams were too time consuming for them and emotionally draining after all the responsibilities they have at home. The participants pointed out that exam time was the most stressful time in their academic times. They also pointed out that since school work takes a lot of their time, they are many times worried and get concerned that they may not have enough time for work, their children and other responsibilities.

The government received very low marks on its efforts towards helping single mothers in college. Rules and regulations are not very clear on the roles of the government in helping single mothers who are students to deal with the challenges facing them. According to the participants, the government had put in effort to help them with other grants that allow them take care of their basic needs but had not done enough to reduce their academic burdens such as fees. As a result, school is still a big source of stress for them in terms of finances.

According to the statistics collected, the stress levels for different people can be summarized as follows:

The stress levels for different people

Conclusion

From statistics conducted by governmental and non-governmental organizations, it is clear that single parenthood is on the rise in many nations especially the western region. The trend is expected to continue as divorce rates go up and people’s lifestyles change. Government statistics recently reported that 30% of children in the country are living with single parents. This number is expected to go as high as 50% by 2050 if nothing is done to influence the trend. Statistics reveal that at any particular time, the number of single mothers in bigger than that of single fathers. From past research, it is also evident that single mothers face bigger challenges than those faced by single fathers.

From the discussion, it is clear that school poses as a significant stressor to single mothers in college. One of the most significant challenges facing single mothers in college is finances. School affects the lives of single mothers emotionally, economically, psychologically and in their attempt to manage their time. They not only have to survive with one income but also have to split it between taking care of their children, themselves and taking care of their academic financial needs. Colleges and universities with hostel facilities do not allow parents to stay with their children in school. While other students may stay in college hostels which are far much more affordable, single parents have to rent houses outside school increasing the cost of education for them.

Psychologically, academics are a source of stress for all students whether or not they have children or not. Stress affects the way they carry out their day to day activities and the way they perform their duties in other areas of their lives. Prolonged and neglected stress increases the intensity of the effects and if untreated can end up being tragic. The most common psychological effect of stress is depression, which is common among college single mothers. The effects of untreated depression are negative not just on them but also on the immediate family, friends, colleagues and everyone close to them, most importantly their children. All these effects negatively affect their performance in school and their parental abilities.

When it comes to time management, it is a more significant challenge for single mothers than it is for couples with children. Finding a quality childcare is a major challenge for all parents, especially for single mothers who do not have the option of living the children with their spouse at home. When the children are still young, safety is paramount and a challenge for parents who have to leave the children with a baby-sitter, many times a stranger. The parents are forced to make many trips home to check on their children and confirm they are safe. Juggling work, school and work is a major challenge for one person. Time becomes even more hectic for those who do not have any form of help from their families or the baby’s father. School therefore poses as a stressful activity since it hinders them from spending more time with their children or doing the things they love with their children.

Emotionally, single mothers lack the proper support from the fathers of their children. For those living away from their immediate families, it is not possible to get the same support from friends, neighbors and the people around them. In the case where the baby’s father is willing to support and visit the child, the burden may be slightly lighter but not completely resolved. Many times high school and college students tend to get children with fellow students, who may not be in a capacity to help financially or emotionally. School work weighs in on them and makes it harder to handle the many other challenges that come with single parenthood.

These challenges can be resolved in different ways. The government and educational institutions must be on the forefront to in putting in place measures that act as supportive pillars for mothers with a quest to better their lives through improved education. The government needs to realize that by helping the mothers, it creates an avenue for them to support themselves in future and reduce the government’s burden. Viable solutions include counseling, special school programs for single mothers to allow them more flexible schedules, and financial support for their academics to ease the financial burden they have to bear.

This study is not only relevant to the single mothers in college but all the stakeholders in the education industry. The study reveals how school is a stressor for single mothers and offers viable solutions. It also makes it easy to realize that when single mothers in college are helped, the burden is lighter for the government in future since the parents will be able to take care of their children. To attract more single mothers in school and make life easier for them, academic institutions must provide more flexible school schedules and support them emotionally, psychologically and emotionally. This paper proposes further research on the issue and challenges that may arise if single mothers in college are not accorded all the necessary help.

Reference List

CoAbode Organization. (2010). Single mum fact sheet. Web.

Family Service America. (2009). Families in society: The journal of contemporary human services. Milwaukee, WI: Family Service America.

Forney, D.S., & Nancy, J,E. (2010). Students’ development in college: Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Garfinkel, L. (2008). Assuring child support: An extension of social security. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Jayakody, R., & Dawn, S. (2002). Mental health programs among single mothers: Implications for work and welfare reform. Journal of Social Issues, 56(4), 617- 634.

Kinnear, K.L. (2007). Single parents: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC- CLIO.

MacLanahan, S., & Gary, S. (2005). Growing up with a single parent: What hurts, what helps. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a]: Harvard University Press.

McGeary, M.G., & Laurence, E.L. (2004). Urban change and poverty. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Office of National Statistics. (2010). Measuring national well being. Web.

Quinn, P., & Katherine, R.A. (2007). Facing challenges and making compromises: How single mothers endure. Family Relations, 38(4), 390-395.

Appendices

Questionnaire

  1. Is school a significant stress to your life as a single mother?
  2. Do you think single parenthood is an obstacle to your path to economic freedom?
  3. Do you think the government has done enough to support single mothers?
  4. As a single parent, do you think it is more difficult to get a job as compared to other job seekers?
  5. Do you think better legislation is the answer to having an easier life as a single mother in school?
  6. Does your child/children affect the way you make your decisions? If so how?
  7. Do your fellow students support you and if so, in what ways?
  8. Does the school administration understand your situation and what have they done to approach you and help?

The stress scale

The stress scale
Circle the one most applicable for you
Single motherhood and school At work
Low High
When not at work
Low High
How hectic is it? 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
How demanding is it? (psychologically and physically) 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
How much control do you have over your time? 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
What is your level of freedom when making decisions? 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
What is the level of privacy in your life? 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
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IvyPanda. "Stressors That Impact Single Mothers Who Are in College." January 7, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/stressors-that-impact-single-mothers-who-are-in-college/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Stressors That Impact Single Mothers Who Are in College." January 7, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/stressors-that-impact-single-mothers-who-are-in-college/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Stressors That Impact Single Mothers Who Are in College'. 7 January.

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