At the second Presidential debate, a comment that linked single parents and gun violence prompted much response in the Twittersphere. It also prompted Time Health & Family’s Belinda Luscombe to ask, “Is there a correlation between single parents and gun violence?”
Drawing on the research of sociologist Philip Cohen, Luscombe shows that understanding this relationship requires more than simply fact-checking a candidate’s statements. Citing Cohen, she notes that while the number of single moms has increased since 1990, the number of violent crimes has been going down.
However, this doesn’t negate other benefits that may be associated with two-parent families in certain contexts. Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up in stable two-parent households perform better across a range of social indicators. For many, these benefits likely stem from the fact that stable two-parent families generally have more resources. However,
There are other issues besides money: children from low-income single-parent families are more likely to have less parental supervision and support, simply because the parent is under much more time and economic pressure. With only one parent to do all the disciplining, the relationship can get very strained.
But, this doesn’t necessarily link to gun violence. Anecdotally, Luscombe also quickly checked data on the 12 most recent mass shootings in the U.S. Out of these, six of the shooters were raised in two-parent families, while three were raised by single parents. (And it’s difficult to trace the family structure of the other three.) So, single parenting may be tough on children in certain circumstances, but the link between gun violence and single parenting is rather murky (if present at all).