Telling Our Stories
Culturally Different Adults Reflect on Growing Up in Single-Parent Families
Donna Y. Ford, Vanderbilt University
Five decades ago, I was challenged to read the Moynihan Report (1965). Then and now, I take issue with much of the content, which smacks of deficit thinking, blaming the victim, and a blindness or almost total disregard for how systemic racism and social injustices contribute to family structures.
I recall being professionally and personally offended by interpretations of single‐parent families, which were often negative and hopeless. Moral development, criminal activity, poor educational outcomes, poverty, and apathy of many kinds were placed squarely on the shoulders of these families, especially if the families were/are headed by Black mothers. Eurocentric and middle class notions of ‘real’ families like those depicted on TV shows and movies dominate, then and now, what is deemed healthy in terms of family structures – with the polemic conclusion that nuclear families are the best and sometimes only structure in which children must be raised.
These colorblind, economic blind, and racist blind studies, reports, theories, and folktales have failed to do justice to the families in which there is one caregiver. Their stories of woe and mayhem make the news and guide policies and procedures. The stories of children who have been resilient have been unheard and silenced, they have been under‐reported and relegated to the status of ‘exception to the rule’. Perhaps they are exceptions, but there are more exceptions than we may know.
This book is designed with those stories of resilience and success in mind. The book is not an attempt to glorify single‐parent families, but such families are prevalent and increasing. High divorce rates are impactful. And some parents have chosen to not marry, which is their right. While not glorifying single‐parent families, we are also not demonizing them or telling their stories void of context. Yes, income will often be low(er), time will be compromised when divided between offspring, work, and other obligations. Likewise, we are not glorifying two‐parent families as being ideal; their context matters too. How healthy are married couples who don’t really love or even like each other? How healthy are those parents who have separate sleeping arrangements/bedrooms? How healthy are those families who have oppositional parenting styles and goals for their children?
This is the 50th anniversary of the Moynihan Report, and I am concerned that another 50 years will pass that fails to balance out the stories of single‐parent families, mainly those whose children succeed and defy the odds so often unexpected of them. I agree with Cohen, co‐author of the updated report: "The preoccupation with strengthening marriage as the best route to reducing poverty and inequality has been a policymaking folly”. Further, 50 years after Moynihan released the controversial report, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, a new brief by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) and the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) titled, "Moynihan's Half Century: Have We Gone to Hell in a Hand Basket?," finds that the changes in family structure that concerned him have indeed continued, becoming widespread among Whites as well, but that they do not explain recent trends in poverty and inequality. In fact, a number of the social ills Moynihan assumed would accompany these changes in family structure—such as rising rates of poverty, school failure, crime, and violence—have instead decreased. (see this)
Introduction, Donna Y. Ford. Strong Shoulders on Which I Stand, Sheree N. Alexander. Growing Up Single: An Unorthodox Road Traveled, Anael Alston. Growing Up in a Single‐Parent Family Home, Rhonesha Blache. My Story is Not Unique: Challenging Stereotypes and Honoring My Mother, Dionne A. Blue. For the Love of Him: Single Parenting and the Tenacity of Spirit, Stephanie Boyle. Breaking the Cycle, Mordecai I. Brownlee. Against The Odds: Perspectives of an African-American Woman Nurtured in a Single‐Mother Home, Dawn Mills Campbell. Not at Risk ... But Rather at Promise, LaTonya Frazier. “A Family‐Type Spirit”: Recognizing Power in the Village, Wyletta Gamble‐Lomax. Product of the “Ghetto”: A Learning Success Story, Aaron J. Griffen. The Rise of the Remarkable and Resilient Single Mother, Breshawn Harris. Our Family World: Setting the Tone for Diligence, Education, and Societal Contributions, Michelle Howard-Vital. Those Ovaltine Nights With My Mother, Charemi Jones. A Tale of Two States: Despair and Triumph, Zaccheus Moss. Monarchs: Defying Odds and Achieving Success, Charissa M. Owens. Performing Love: A Complex Man Showing off His Simplicity, Stuart Rhoden. Success is Not an Option: Being Raised by a Black Single Teenage Parent, Telvis M. Rich. As a Single Parent, My Mother Always Believed, Shawn Anthony Robinson. Reconciling a Faceless Father and a Single Mother, Christopher J. P. Sewell. Coming From a Single Parent and, at Times, a Dual Parent Home Does Not Define My Destiny, Shonta Smith. Defying Expectations Imposed on Single‐Parent Mothers and Their Children, Eric Stallings. She Ain’t Yo’ Average Chic: How a Single Mom Raised Above Average Children, Michelle Trotman Scott. Memory Lost: An Unknowing Journey Through Seasons, Brandon Wallace. Doing It With One Parent and Owning Every Minute of It, Dominique D. Williams. Epilogue: My Mother, My Hero, and My Role Model, Donna Y. Ford. About the Authors.
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