Traditions, Values and Young People

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Single Parents -
An Interview with an Expert

Two girls from the German school at Mülheim wanted to find out more about single parenthood, so they went to see an expert and interviewed her.


mother with child
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"For this school project we have worked on the topic of single parents. To find out more about this, we took the opportunity to visit the German Association of Single Mothers and Fathers in Essen. We got detailed information on the topic of single parents from Ms Edith Weiser, who works for this association.

The founder of the association was a single mother named Luise Schöffel who, in the 1960s, found the situation of single mothers deplorable and fought for more justice towards them.

Since those days, there have been many changes in the treatment of single parents. Such families, termed "skeleton families" back then, are named differently today, and their situation has changed drastically. These days, the topic is dealt with more openly. Nevertheless most single parents live close to the bread line.

in 1967 there were 564,000 single-parent families in Germany, which equaled 7 % of the total. Today this number has reached 18 %, which equals about 1,617,000 single parents. Their share of all families has doubled. Only 10 % of all single parents are fathers, i.e. men. One reason for this is that older children also like to live with their fathers, while younger ones usually live with their mother.

Many children want to have lived with both their parents. That is why they first live with the one and later decide to move in with the other.

As a support from the government, parents have received an increase in parental allowance from January 2007. Thus, the parent who is on parent leave from his job receives up to 67 % of his or her salary, with a maximum of 1,800 €. Regarding maternity leave, the situation has also improved. This can also be taken by fathers; numbers have gone up from 3.5 to 16 %. However, this usually is only a few months since the minimum maternity leave is two months.

Financial support from the government also reaches the children. The child benefit is 164 € per child. Children who do not receive alimony from the parent they do not live with are entitled to 6 years of  alimony advance from the local authorities. If the parent they live with earns too little they will receive 211 € as social benefit. However, a child who receives this sum and does a part-time job at the same time can only keep 160 €.

One problem that single parents have is that there are few vacancies in crèches and that school hours do not always allow parents to work.

The financial situation also poses a major problem since the majority of single parents can only have a part-time job and thus have to live close to the bread line. Many employers are not family-friendly because they hesitate to employ single parents. For them the risk that their staff will be absent from work when the children are sick is too great.

As there are often controversies between couples that live separately, 10 % of all couples go to court to settle their arguments. This also has the consequence that 50 % of those children suffer from low self-esteem and have deficiencies in social learning. Such problems have a negative influence on society as a whole.

In the 1950s families often had three or more children. Today, the average is 1.4 kids. These days, children are often seen as a burden. Unmarried people often prefer self-realization in their jobs to having children. In addition, it is expensive to raise kids. For these reasons the number of single households is on the rise.

Furthermore, the age at which women have babies has risen by about 10 years. While 50 years ago women were about 20 when they had their first child, they are around 30 today.

Playing activities of the children are increasingly undergoing changes. This is mostly due to their surroundings, to a society which become more and more insecure, and to the money that children can spare for their kids. Were previously children played in the streets and visited friends who lived more than a kilometer away, this is today regarded as dangerous; the children might be hit by cars or abused by pedophiles. Another reason is that kids have few opportunities to play since playgrounds are dilapidated. In today's children's rooms technology and virtual reality are dominant; to this we must add full appointments diaries and the unquestioned assumption that the kids must be driven to their appointments.

If you look at young people today you can see that respect for the older generation is frequently lacking. A well-known example is the situation on a tram: In former times, young people got up to offer elderly persons a seat; today they keep their seats and do not bother about it."