Familial Economic Well-Being In Relation to Children’s Personal Development

Ishmam Khan ’25

Figure 1: Children in a single household family are reported to be more distant in their endeavors, especially if they are in a household that reports under the poverty line. 

According to the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, almost 20% of German children are part of a single-parent household or stepfamily. Previous research has shown the relationship between the “complexity” of a child’s family– specifically, the degree of deviance from a traditional nuclear family– and a child’s mental well-being. There has also been a scientifically noted connection between the economic well-being of these different structures of family and their financial strain, or the extent of monetary stress brought upon an individual. The aim of the study by Heintz-Martin and Langmeyer of the German Youth Institute sought to bridge a family’s economic well-being with family type, focusing on the impact of the role of financial stressors and complexity to a child’s general wellbeing.

The researchers hypothesized that single-parent families are more at risk of being below the poverty threshold than nuclear families, stepfamilies, or blended stepfamilies. To test this, they used the Family Stress Model (FSM) to track the objective status of a family’s financial wellbeing and complexity, including eligibility for tax returns, credit scores, and overall finances. The researchers also wanted to understand a qualitative element of the child’s wellbeing, so they interviewed children ages 9 to 17 about their thoughts on life within their households and what impact those conditions had on them. 

The researchers discovered that single-parent households and stepfamilies are more at risk of financial instability and therefore raising children with more behavioral and academic issues. While the study did not mention specific figures, they reported that the strength of financial strain for single-parent households was 24% while the nuclear households were 9%. This monetary stress easily translates to emotional conflict, negatively impacting the child’s development, academics, and relationships. Additionally, researchers found that the “relationship quality” of a child’s connection to any family is just as important as their living status due to the atmosphere of the family. Good partnership quality with less conflict and higher satisfaction protects single parents from feeling financially burdened, which seems to be true independent of the family type. 

This study provides a glimpse into how both family dynamics and economic situations play a fundamental role in how children grow, act, and develop. This crucial connection gives context to adolescent behavior, allowing caretakers and lawmakers to better provide and allocate resources for individuals from such backgrounds as well as develop a culture of well-informed empathy around such situations. 

Works Cited:

[1] V. Heintz-Martin, & A. Langmeyer, Economic situation, financial strain and child wellbeing in stepfamilies and single-parent families in Germany. Journal of Family and Economic Issues 41, 238–254 (2020). doi: 10.1007/s10834-019-09653-z

[2] Image retrieved from: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1436205 

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