American Single Father Homes

A Growing Public Health Priority

Published in: American Journal of Public Health, Volume 112, No. 1, pages 21–23 (January 2022). doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2021.306591

Posted on RAND.org on June 22, 2022

by Stacey L. Shipe, Lynsay Ayer, Kate Guastaferro

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Children and families in the United States have suffered greatly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. School shutdowns, unprecedented job loss, and the grief and loss related to COVID-19 deaths have highlighted the mental health and financial needs of parents—particularly single parents. Yet, when the struggle of pandemic parenting is discussed, it is often focused on the needs of mothers. It is important, however, to not overlook the needs of single fathers—one of the fastest-growing populations in the country; the number of single fathers in the United States grew from approximately 1.7 million in 1990 to 3.3 million in 2020. Research indicates that single fathers suffer from similar barriers as single mothers, but institutional stereotypes about fathers (e.g., a perceived lack of interest in child-rearing) make some barriers more gender specific. The struggles of single fatherhood, coupled with the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, highlight that supporting this hidden but sizable population of caregivers is a public health priority. We review some of the current evidence on the characteristics and needs of single fathers and outline recommendations for research, practice, and policy.

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