Should Single Parents Use IVF?

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“It takes a village to raise a child.”

The ancient proverb is said to originate in Africa, in which communities would collectivize in order to care for each new child born, hoping to give them the best possible development.

In the West, however, we are increasingly moving away from this tradition. Grandparents seldom live at home with their grandchildren, and even a child’s parents are rarely found living under the same roof. The communal parental model has been largely replaced by a progressively isolated parenting process.

And now, a new family model is emerging.

That model is of women who wish to raise children alone, through the use of In-Vitro Fertilisation.

Last year in Victoria, Australia alone, an estimated 700 single women conceived a child through IVF.

As revealed in an online ABC news article, however, many women felt they faced prejudices when deciding to raise children alone. Some went as far as to describe the fact that the IVF application forms were designed for couples rather than single parents as “micro-aggressions.”

Furthermore, Australian organizations such as Monash IVF pride themselves on having helped 4000 single women conceive through the use of IVF over the years. All the while, organisations like the NHS and other hospitals are deemed “morally bankrupt” when they turn down single mothers hoping to undergo IVF.

This raises the issue of the ethics of parenting — often said to be the hardest job endowed upon the average hominid — with one less leg to lean on.

Of course, women should be allowed to use IVF should they wish to, as having a child is our biological imperative. However, there is a rather large elephant in the room.

That elephant is the wellbeing of the child involved.

As it stands, studies into IVF-induced single parenting are few and far between due to the newness of the parental model. The same cannot be said for the ‘nuclear family.’ By almost every metric, children who grow up in single-parent families are worse off.

The negative effects of absent fathers (fathers are the ones who typically leave the household) is not a new phenomenon, and is explained clearly within ‘Successful Black Men from Absent‐Father Homes and Their Resilient Single Mothers: A Phenomenological Study’ from the Journal of Multicultural Counselling and Development:

“The absence of fathers created a social crisis that affected a child’s moral development as well as a major contributing factor leading to crime and delinquency, premature sexuality, poor educational achievement, and poverty. In addition, fatherless children have been linked to an increased tendency toward violence, substance abuse, truancy, unwed pregnancies, and psychological disorders in contrast to children whose fathers play an active role in their lives.”

Some African American figureheads such as Larry Elder and Thomas Sowell go even further and argue that the phenomenon of absent fatherhood is one of the largest problems plaguing the African American community.

In fact, even President Barack Obama agreed, stating that “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”

A 2017 U.S. Census Bureau revealed that 19.7 million children were growing up without a father in the home. Furthermore, Nigel Barber’s 2004 essay entitled ‘Reduced Female Marriage Opportunity and History of Single Parenthood,’ states that single parenthood has risen in the United States from 5% in 1960 to 34% in 2000.

In the African American community, nearly 3 out of 4 children grow up without a father in the home.

Clearly, it’s preferable to have both parents in the home. Though is it better to at least knowingly enter into parenthood on your own, rather than have your partner unexpectedly leave you?

Well, yes and no. While no child should be subject to parental conflict and divorce, at least in couples who divorce there’s the acknowledgement that two parents are better than one, and the attempt to make that a reality.

In the case of single parents receiving IVF, they’re knowingly entering into a lesser family model, and it isn’t just the child that suffers as a result.

According to the essay ‘Effects of Stress and Social Supports on Mother-Child Interactions in Single- and Two-Parent Families’ by Marsha Weinraub and Barbara M. Wolf within the Society for Research in Child Development, single parents themselves face a mire of issues largely due to their lack of a spouse:

“Single parents tended to be more socially isolated than married parents. They worked longer hours and received less emotional and less parental support. They tended to have less stable social networks and experience more potentially stressful life changes.”

And as mentioned in the International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice essay: ‘the effects of single-mother and single-father families on youth crime’ the author Nigel Barber states that:

“There is little doubt that being raised by a single parent, who has few if any alternative supportive caretakers, is a major risk factor for criminal offending.”

It seems unambiguous that single parenting, when compared to a two-parent system, more negatively affects not only the children and parent involved but also for society and taxpayers at large.

Choosing, in this scenario, appears to be everything.

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