Each one of us grew up in a different family situation.
This has a massive impact on who we become and the values and traits we hold dear.
I grew up with a single mom and I notice many similarities between myself and others who also grew up with a single parent.
Growing up is never easy, and it’s no different with a single parent.
Here’s a look at the diverse set of traits that are likely to show up in those who were raised by a single parent.
Those who grew up with a single parent learn to be more self-sufficient at a young age.
Their parents usually didn’t have quite as much time to spend with them, and they may have had to learn more quickly about how to survive on their own.
They may grow up and become more responsible at an early age or end up growing into a role caring for siblings as well.
If the parent is around a lot, they will often become a helper as well and in some cases almost a co-parent, filling the missing maternal or paternal role.
This brings up the next crucial unique trait of those who grew up in a single-parent home:
While they are often more self-sufficient, those who grew up with one parent are still strongly influenced by the parent who raised them, of course.
It just depends on which parent.
2) Strong identification with the masculine or feminine
Children of a single parent tend to be influenced much more by the parent who raised them than the one who was absent.
As such, they form a lopsided bond where they are very close to their mother or father but not to both.
This gives the child of single parents unique traits later in life that tend to lean more towards the traditionally masculine or feminine depending on which parent raised them.
The boy raised by a single mom, will often learn to identify more with female traits and ways of relating to the world, for example.
The girl raised by a single dad, will often adopt more masculine ways of seeing the world and interacting in it.
This gives unique advantages and perceptions to the child of a single parent, but also leaves them in a difficult position.
The “missing piece” of the feminine or masculine will often be a struggle for the child, as one side of the gender spectrum was more absent during their formative years.
This brings up the next point…
3) A sense of not belonging
Those who grew up with a single parent often feel like they don’t belong.
The roots of this are usually contained in the missing father or mother figure early on in life, which left an emotional gap or hole that feels like it needs to be filled.
External attempts to fill the hole don’t work, and there is usually a difficult but often successful attempt by this person to integrate themselves and find their missing masculine or feminine side.
4) Hesitancy in love
One effect of growing up with a single parent is hesitancy forming personal bonds.
Those who grew up with a parent who they saw separate or get divorced are often marred by the experience.
Those who grew up with a single parent and never knew any different simply aren’t shown an example of what a functional (or dysfunctional) adult romantic relationship looks like.
As a result, when they do begin dating they are approaching it from square one without having much of a precedent to work off from their real life.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can lead to authentic and deep relationships, but it can make it trickier.
“Children of a single parent are left to gain that experience on their own. It’s a lot like taking on a new job with no training: you learn the most in the field.”
One of the downsides of this can sometimes be a fear of commitment, which brings me to the next point.
5) Fear of commitment
Those who grow up with single parents and saw a messy divorce or separation are often more than just hesitant about love:
They’re scared of it.
They watched the two people who should have been closest and most loving to each other split apart in a painful way.
This rocks the foundation of a child’s world or even a teen or young adult who thinks of their parents as a unit.
Realizing their parents have deep divisions which can’t (or won’t) be reconciled is deeply discouraging at the instinctive and primal level.
This can lead to an inner hopelessness about love or a feeling that they aren’t destined to find or keep love as a result of the problems experienced by their parents.
6) Fear of being incapable of forming a loving family
Strong independence can be a good thing, and is an advantage that some kids of single parents develop.
This has an upside in that skills and talents are already developed and not dependent on somebody else, but it also has a downside.
The downside is that the person who grows up with a single parent may become deeply fearful that they are flawed or unworthy and won’t be able to form their own family.
They look at their troubled roots and feel like family or serious relationships are beyond them:
“I’ll never be a good dad, look how mine was!”
“I’d never be able to really be a responsible mom, look what mine did!”
“Marriage isn’t for me, look how the death of dad ruined my mom’s life…”
This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and make it very difficult for the child of divorced, separated or widowed parents to know what to do in their own personal life.
It feels like they’ve been marked out by destiny to be alone or just have shorter-term connections rather than long-term commitment and a stable family situation.
Putting it all together
Growing up with a single parent is hard, but it’s nothing new.
Throughout history, wars, infidelity, fights and breakups have been a part of society, taking fathers and mothers away from kids who need them.
Even in outwardly traditional societies, fathers or mothers often became emotionally or physically absent from one another, or abusive.
In many cases, they remained married on paper but not in reality.
The fact that there have always been kids with only one parent doesn’t make it any easier, of course, but it’s important to know that if you’re a single-parent kid you will be OK.