Gender Makes No Difference

When deciding on which parent should have custody, gender makes no difference.

By Camille Chatterjee, published on March 1, 1999 - last reviewed on August 30, 2004

The conventional wisdom on children raised by single parents says
that they must be missing some essential piece--a mother's nurturing
influence, a father's discipline.

The truth, says Douglas Downey, Ph.D., is that kids living with
their moms don't turn out so differently from kids living with dads.
"Some people assume that one parent is more necessary," says the Ohio
State University assistant professor of sociology. "People expecting this
will be disappointed."

Downey looked at data collected from students raised by lone
parents to see if delinquent behavior, self-esteem and mental ability
were affected by whether kids were raised by their mother or father. To
assess the long-term effect of having one guardian, he looked at surveys
of adults who had been raised by a single parent.

Surprisingly, Downey found only two disparities between kids raised
by women and those brought up by men: children who lived with their
mothers performed slightly better on standardized tests and tended to
have a half a year more education than kids who lived with their fathers.
"There are ideas about kids developing characteristics by exposure to one
parent or another," says Downey, "but we didn't really find that at all."
What differences do exist between moms and dads, says Downey, are more
societal than sex-related: single fathers tend to have higher
socioeconomic status, higher prestige jobs and more education than single
moms.