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For many years, the family has remained the main foundation on which social groupings have been formed and developed within the society. A family may consist of both parents and their children or a single parent and the children. In some cases, a family may be extended to include more members who share common goals, values and purposes and who normally live in the same dwelling place and eat from a common pot (Alston, 2009). However, the family has over the years undergone tremendous changes leading to controversies of what should be the universal definition of a family. Available literature shows that traditional family identity regarding structure, commitment and child rearing practices have since undergone major alterations.


The changes have had an impact on the family identify as is witnessed in the emergence of new family structures characterized by under aged parents, increasing numbers of single parents, gay and lesbian arrangements, increasing numbers of advanced maternal aged women, couples considering gender-selection for assisted reproduction and couples considering same-sex adoption. The changes have led to the erosion of the traditional role of the family as a key determinant of the wellbeing of the society. This essay presents a discussion of two different population groups — the adolescent parent and the single parent. In so doing, it attempts to explore recent trends of these groups vis-à-vis the likely reason for changes in family setting. In addition, it examines the environmental risk and protective factors that influence the groups (adolescent parent and single mother). While showcasing various determinants of the changes on the two groups, the essay points out both the positive and negative effects of this development on the groups and the implications of these trends on nurses in the effective discharge of their duty.

Structural Changes, Trends, Benefits and Challenges

Macvarish (2010) observes that numerous changes have been responsible for the changes that have occurred on the family structures. According to Wise (2008), there is believable evidence that families have experienced tremendous changes. While using Australian families as a case study, she notes that the composition of most families now contradicts the traditional norm and that most mothers do not now fully get involved in the business of rearing their children. This has been due to the fact that most mothers now go for salaried employments that do not give them ample time to be with their children. Due to westernization, the moral, social and economic context of the society has changed so much so that its effects have been felt on the internal structure of the family globally (Katherine et al., 2011). Science and technology has also contributed significantly to these changes as can be seen in the selection for assisted reproduction. These changes have affected the different aspects of family system such as parent-child relationships.

Increasing numbers of adolescent parents is one of the major changes in the traditional system. Adolescence appears to be a challenging period in life due to its attendant overabundance of physical, socio-emotional and cognitive transformation taking place in the lives of young people (Alston et al., 2009). Such transformations lead to different developments such as unwanted pregnancies. In case of unwanted pregnancies, an adolescent consequently becomes a parent at a tender age. While many argue that adolescent parenting is not a new phenomenon, it is considered a negative parenting trend and a recipe for poor health. Even though teenage parenthood has been a cause for exclusion in some cultural quarters, it is encouraged in some low socio-economic areas (Macvarish, 2010). Teenage pregnancy is a common phenomenon in the developed economies with Australia taking the lead followed by United States and United Kingdom in the second and third positions respectively (Rita et al, 2011). Even with a registered decline at the international level, this trend still remains a cause for worry.

Challenge and Impacts on the Health of Adolescent Parents

Adolescent pregnancy is now considered a major challenge to the social, economic and health aspects of the global community. Issues that come with this kind of pregnancy have become concerns of parents, the children born by the teenagers and the care providers such as Nurses. Letourneau,
et al (2007) observed that most adolescent mothers are exposed to poor living conditions, characterized by lack adequate economic resources, increased stress running into family instability and limited educational prospect. It has been established that these factors contribute to insufficient parent-child interactions and weaken infant development. The implications of these conditions are high risks in the health and the economic wellbeing of the teenage parents. This leads to the creation of a family system that eventually fails for all the parties involved (Knigh & Chase, 2006).

Despite the negative aspects of teenage parenting, it has also been established that this kind of parenting also come with some positive factors. According to the Government of Australia (2010), teenage parenting enables the teenagers to mature and become dependable in dealing with life challenges. After their relative experiences, teenage parents get to learn from engaging in premarital sex and that sometimes unwanted pregnancies come with unbearable challenges. The also tend to appreciate the worth of their parents by following their experiences to parenthood. They begin to realize that being a parent is more that feeding, bathing and laying the child to sleep (Quinlivan, 2006).

The number of single parent has increased tremendously over the past few decades. It has been noted that presently, more than half of the children in the developed countries do not live with both of their parents (Rosengard, 2006). In 2003, about one million children aged between 0 and 17 years of age lived with single parents. The percentage for this kind of arrangement in Australia alone during this time stood at 22%. Even though the number of children living with both parents has also been on the increase, statistics shows that of children living with single parents has been significantly higher.

These trends are highly linked to the increasing rates of marriage breakages; increasing cases of divorce and separation and to a lesser extent a rise in births outside wedlock. Compared with other forms of families, one-parent families are considered more disadvantageous regarding income levels, access to housing, employment opportunities and social participation in the society. Children can undergo constructive development in single-parent families or get negative experiences. The kind of upbringing (whether negative or positive) a child gets from a single-parent family is dependant on the nature of upbringing the child received. According to Nicole & Letoumeau (2007), what is important for a child in a single family is to have an understanding of his or her origin and develop a sense of love for both parents without feeling guilty.

Single-parent families are normally faced with a number of challenges with major ones being feelings of exclusion and loneliness (Quinlivan, 2006). Sometimes it is quite challenging for a single parent to take care of babies or children with disabilities for twenty four hours. On the other hand it is argued that single parents feel ok since they are able to single-handedly make most parenting choices without being involved in a chain of consultations and arguments. Another school of thought also points out that single parents tend to have ample time to themselves and can therefore choose how to spend their time (Uhlmann, 2006). Such parents also have enough time for their children and this can help in building a stronger bond between the parents and their children.

Many social scientists argue that many children brought up by single parents tend to have more problems compared to those brought up under the care of both parents (Uhlmann, 2006). According to this argument, children of single parents are likely to perform poorly in school, commit crimes, become drug addicts or become victims of early pregnancies (Bishop, 2007). The social scientists maintain that the problems associated with children of single parents not only affect these children and their parents but also the larger society. The society becomes a victim by paying the cost increased transgression, diseases, and other forms of public breakdowns.

Implications for Nursing Role

Social relationships play significant roles in modeling and shaping people’s lives in the society. Consequently, the role of nursing in providing health services to both single and adolescent parents in order to contribute to maternal and infant health is equal of significant importance. The effectiveness and good health of both single and adolescent parents is dependant on their exposure to social support (Rita, 2011). Such support can be in the form of cancelling, provision of informational support via advice or guidance aimed at offering similar standards of care to both parents and advising them on sex and relationships. Social support also includes instrumental support which involves, physical goods or assistance with tasks.

Letourneau et al (2007) observe that social support plays a significant role in improving the lives of both single and adolescent parents. Nurses play a crucial role in the provision of social support to both types of parenting. The services provide by the nurses include informational support on parenting skills, positive child development, good family planning practices, life skills, postpartum informational support and general health information required by the parents. While providing the social support to the two types of parenting, a nurse need to be non-judge mental, impartial and display a sense of empathy (Habib, 2010). She or he also needs to have a good understanding of the client.


In conclusion, the traditional family structure has undergone tremendous structural changes over the past ten decades. The primary causes of these changes have been increased cases of social degeneration and rapid technological development. Increase in numbers of single and teenage parenting has been one of the consequences of these structural changes that have been witnessed in the family unit. Even though the changes have had negative impacts on families, it is though that some of the changes have had positive bearings. It is therefore important to provide social support to both types of parenting objectively. In this regard, the contribution of nurses in the provision of social support cannot be overemphasized.


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