Wednesday, October 13, 1999 Published at 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Single parents 'not a disadvantage' for pupils
Single parents do not harm their children's education, says research
Children brought up by single parents are at no greater educational disadvantage than those raised by a couple, says a large study in the United States.
One in five children in the UK is born to a single parent. Some previous research suggests that they are more likely to do badly at school than children from more traditional families.
But research by developmental psychologist Henry Ricciuti from Cornell University in New York says this is misleading.
He believes this has not looked at the influence of a mother's education and coping skills on her children.
In one of the largest projects of its kind. Dr Ricciuti studied 1,700 children between six and eight years old.
He found that children of single parents did just as well on vocabulary, reading and mathematics tests as those from two-parent families.
And they were no more likely to have behavioural problems.
"I did not find any evidence for single parenthood being a risk in its own right," Dr Ricciuti told New Scientist magazine.
However, single parent families were twice as likely to fall below the poverty line.
But poverty was not the most important factor for educational disadvantage, he found.
He concludes that a mother's level of education and her coping skills are more important than the effects of poverty, at least for the younger children he studied.
It comes after a report by the Institute of Education in the UK found that poverty and a mother's academic ability influenced a child's educational development much more than whether their mother worked.
It also revelaed that children of unemployed parents fared significantly worse than others and those brought up in social housing were more aggressive and had fewer reading and maths skills than average.