Psychological traumas surrounding single parenting Different life situations may lead people to become single parents

Zvoushe Haruperi,Correspondent

Different life situations may lead people to become single parents. Single parents are parents raising their children alone. They can be unmarried and living alone, or separated, divorced, or widowed. They can be male or female, young or old, educated or uneducated. The single-parent household can be headed by a mother, a father, a grandparent, an uncle, or aunt. A single parent is a person who has a child or children but does not have a spouse or live-in partner to assist in the upbringing or support of the child.

This article aims at exploring the psychological traumas surrounding single parenting in Zimbabwe. It will also highlight the consequences of single parenting on the parents and the need for intervention.

What causes single parenting?

The causes of single parenting can be grouped into two groups being permanent and temporary causes.

Permanent causes

• Death

• Divorce

• Separation

• Adoption

• Artificial insemination

• Rape

• Domestic violence

• Unwanted pregnancy

• Abandonment

• Break up

Temporary causes

• Prison

• Chronic diseases (ill health )

• Alcohol and substance addiction

• Mental health issues

• Deportation

Being a single parent is very hard. Individuals that lack daily interaction can end up feeling isolated from their friends and family. For this reason, they will turn to drugs as they believe it will help them feel less lonely and more content. Some single parents may feel very lonely and may resort to drugs for them to feel more content. Some single parents emotionally feel they need drugs to fill a void in their lives (whether it’s stress, trauma, relationship issues or more). General feelings of inadequacy towards themselves or the world, may trigger single parents to use drugs to boost their confidence and self-esteem and ability to make sense of things. Single parents face many life responsibilities alone and they may resort to drugs as a way to forget their troubles, relieve boredom and to relax.

Suicidal Ideation

Financial and social hardships can lead a single parent to commit suicide. The single parent may feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of juggling caring for the children, maintaining a job, and keeping up with the bills and household chores. Stress, anxiety and depression due to family pressure may trigger suicidal thoughts in single parents. Pressure and blame from the surrounding environment may also contribute to suicide if the single parent does not get counseling in time.

Social isolation and stigma

Social stigmatisation still exists against single parents. Single motherhood or fatherhood can be stigmatised for a few reasons in the community : it’s seen as an indicator of poor character or lack of morals. It’s often associated with poverty. It’s often associated with a lack of resources (as in the case of unmarried women who become pregnant). Single parents are called different names in the Zimbabwean society. Single mothers are seen as prostitutes, widowers and widows are seen as the killers of their partners and single fathers are said to be single because of the rituals they joined. Single mothers with lower income and education experience feel the pressure both physically and mentally and they are exposed to stigmatisation by society.


Because of the pressure of providing for the family some single parents resort to criminal activities for them to survive. Some will sell illicit drugs, run shebeens, smuggle things and many other crimes. Single fathers may practice unlawful entry and theft, robbery and smuggling for them to support and conquer the family needs. The rise in the numbers of single mothers who kill their children in a bid to discipline them is a pointer to bottled negative emotions of single parenting. Some single parents also poison their children and themselves as a way of getting away from the traumas of life.

Single parenting is associated with stress, anxiety and depression and these are the order of everyday. Apart from money pressures, many single parents can experience difficulties when trying to manage all of their roles and responsibilities as a single person household. This can be particularly challenging for those parenting a child with special needs as the demands on your time and energy will be greater.

Feelings of isisolation,lack of social support, substance or alcohol use and traumatic or stressful experiences may trigger psychopathological problems like schizophrenia, negative psychosis, brief psychotic disorders, personality disorders and catatonic disorders in single parents.

Single parents may create new problems in a bid to solve the current problem. Single mothers may turn to prostitution as a way of earning a living thereby putting themselves at the risk of contracting HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases (STI’s). Some single parents may resort to lesbianism and being gay in order for them to get financial support and this will affect their health and their spiritual wellbeing negatively.

Some scholars say children learn behavior from copying their role models and this implies that children from single parents who take drugs or sell drugs maybe drug abusers and children from single mothers who are prostitutes may be future prostitutes. Abuse of drugs by single parents may lead them to psychopathological problems, prison or even death leaving the children more vulnerable.

Intervention Single parenting in Zimbabwe has effects on mental health. The psychological problems, social stigma and isolation, drug abuse, new problems and criminal effects associated with single parenting have negative devastating consequences for individuals, schools, communities and the nation at large.

Interventions are to be put in place to address the psychological needs of the affected individuals and raise awareness which promotes resilience in single parents . Efforts should focus on providing psychosocial support in the form of counseling for the affected individuals, creating community peer groups which help the single parents live gainfully and fruitfully and conduct workshops that discuss single parenting with people across Zimbabwe. The government should consider deployment of professional counsellors or family therapists who specialise in parenting issues and provide financial loans and support so that single parents can start fruitful projects. The government should also set rules and laws that prohibit name calling of single parents.

*Zvoushe Haruperi is a Master of Science Counseling Psychology student at Great Zimbabwe University.


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