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Dr. Spock: Growing Up in a Single Parent Family

Dr. Benjamin Spock has been giving parents advice about raising their children for decades. In this excerpt from his landmark work, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, he shares one of the 19 points he believes are most important for parents to keep in mind about their role in their child's life.

What about single parents?

I have stressed the importance of children's relationships with both their mother and father. But what if, as is commonly the case, there is only one parent at home or, less commonly, the parents are of the same sex? Must the child's psychological well-being inevitably suffer?

The answer to this question is a resounding no. While it is true that children need both male and female role models, those role models need not live in the same house. What children need most of all is nurturing and love, a consistent presence in their lives who provides emotional support and teaches them the ways of the world. A child growing up with a single parent who can provide these necessities will be far better off than a child whose mother and father neglect his needs because of their own unhappiness. Most children from single-parent families find role models outside the home -- a special uncle or aunt, perhaps, or a close friend of the family.

We have learned that children are resilient: give them what they need and they will blossom. It is the necessities of love, consistency, and care that come first in a child's life. With those in hand, a child can do well in all sorts of different family constellations.

Excerpted with permission from Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, Revised Seventh Edition, Pocket Books, 1998.

Copyright 1945, 1946, © 1957, 1968, 1976, 1985, 1992 by Benjamin Spock, MD. Copyright renewed © 1973, 1974, 1985, 1996 by Benjamin Spock, MD. Revised and updated material copyright © by The Benjamin Spock Trust

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.