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More single parents raising kids in Oklahoma

An increasing number of single parents are raising children in Oklahoma, and the percentage of single fathers in the state grew 40 percent, the Oklahoman reports.

The news source found that more than 168,600 single-parents raise children in the state, an increase of 19 percent over the last 10 years. While still less common than single-mother families, single-father households grew 40 percent to 45,934.

Linda Terrell, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, told the publication that single parents, whether male or female, often struggle to make ends meet financially which can limit their children’s opportunities. However, communities can reach out to single-parent neighbors and friends to help give the kids a chance.

“I strongly believe that having as many caring adults in the life of a child on a regular basis is critical for everything from early brain development, to socialization, to emotional skill development, to learning how to be in relations with others,” she said.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an organization that helps vulnerable children and families, 34 percent of American children lived in single-parent homes in 2009. In Oklahoma, that statistic was 35 percent. The state with the lowest rate of single-parent families was Utah with 18 percent, while Mississippi had the highest rate, at 48 percent.

Single dads gaining momentum in courtrooms

Recent courtroom successes by many single fathers could show a change in attitude toward these parents in divorce and custody proceedings, Bloomberg reports.

“It’s time for us to stop assuming that single parents are always women,” Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told the news source. “There is a visible presence now of single men caring for their kids. We didn’t see that a few decades ago.”

The attitudes seem to be changing if recent litigation is any indication. Joe Cioffi, a physician in Connecticut, recently endured a four-year struggle to win primary custody of his son after he and the child’s mother ended their relationship.

Once considered a minority, Cioffi is part of a 27.3 percent increase in American families led by single fathers, according to data from the 2010 Census. These statistics may already be out-of-date considering the growing diversity of today’s family structures, WNYC reports.

“The statistics are kind of falling behind the reality of America’s changing families and in some cases not really capturing the lived experiences of these children,” Kelly Musick, a family demographer at Cornell University, told the news source.

Single-dad households rise drastically

While men make the vast majority of child support payments, that trend might be changing a bit in Maryland, where the rise in number of single-father households was greater than the increase in single-mother households for the first time in more than 40 years.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the 2010 Census found that there were 47,200 families led by a single father, which represents an increase of about 6,000, or 14 percent, over 2000. This is compared to an increase of just 3.2 percent of single-mother households over the same period.

“There’s been a slow shift in the way that men view their roles as father, the way that women view men’s role as father, and the opportunities for women in the workplace,” Geoffrey L. Greif, an author who also teaches at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, told the news source.

Rachmiel Tobesman, who used to be the president of Maryland’s Fathers United for Equal Rights, said that the state has begun to shift to a playing field that doesn’t favor women at the expense of men.

The Census also found that less than 50 percent of households have married couples, which CNN reports is seen as a historical shift.