The overwhelming majority of single-parent families are headed by mothers (84% of all single-parent families in 1998), rather than fathers (16%). Still, the
number of single fathers has increased since the 1970s (9% of all single-parent homes were father-headed in 1970). The circumstances surrounding the single-parent status of men versus women differ. The greatest percentage of single fathers gained custody of children as the result of parental divorce. Single fathers are more likely to gain custody of children when mothers have either chosen not to retain custody or are perceived to be incompetent. Single fathers are more likely to have custody of older rather than younger children and of boys rather than girls. By and large, the challenges for single fathers and single mothers are similar and include the difficulties of combining parenting responsibilities and employment, and economic disadvantage. On average, single fathers have higher standards of living than do single mothers, which decreases potential stresses within the family. Yet single mothers have been reported to have warmer and more structured relationships with their children than do single fathers. Several studies have indicated that once economic factors are taken into account, children from single-mother families fare better than children from single-father families. Such differences may be accounted for by these parenting differences or by the afore mentioned differences in the circumstances surrounding the father custody arrangement.
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