Children in single-parent households

Children in Single-Parent Households is the percentage of children in family households where the household is headed by a single parent (male or female head of household with no spouse present). Please note that the methods for calculating this measure changed in the 2011 Rankings.

Measure Tabs

Reason for Ranking

Adults and children in single-parent households are at risk for adverse health outcomes, including mental illness (e.g. substance abuse, depression, suicide) and unhealthy behaviors (e.g. smoking, excessive alcohol use).[1-4] Self-reported health has been shown to be worse among lone parents (male and female) than for parents living as couples, even when controlling for socioeconomic characteristics. Mortality risk is also higher among lone parents.[4,5] Children in single-parent households are at greater risk of severe morbidity and all-cause mortality than their peers in two-parent households.[2,6]

Measurement Strengths and Limitations

Children in single-parent households can be a problematic measure because households headed by single parents, like those headed by married or cohabiting couples, can be quite heterogeneous, with differing levels of family, community, and economic support. Therefore, the distribution of health risk in single-parent households can vary dramatically, particularly for children.[2,7] As of 2013, same-sex married couples are included with all married couples.