Is there a difference between a broken home and a single parent family?


Many times when people say,  “broken home” one thinks of a single-parent home where the kids are out of control or possibly the parent is out of control. You might question if there is a big difference between broken homes and single-parent homes. I mean, after all, don’t both kinds of homes have only one parent? So, is there really a difference between a broken home and a single-parent family? Yes, I tend to believe there is a huge difference.

  • A single-parent family is a healthy family unit with connectedness in the relationships.
  • Broken homes are disconnected with breaks in the relationships that cause dysfunction in daily life.

Single-parent families have their ups and downs, but they stay connected.

By contrast, the adults in disconnected “broken home” situations have not healed from the divorce, abandonment, or the death of a partner.

Disclaimer:  This article is not meant to heap guilt upon any single parent. If you are new to parenting alone and still healing from what brought you to the point of parenting alone, realize it takes time to heal. You may have a deep wound that will only heal with time, with concentrated effort, and with a relationship with Jesus Christ. So do the best you can to develop a strong and healthy single-parent family.

Dr. Archibald Hart in his book “Children and Divorce” says, “Usually, it is not the event of divorce or the death that necessarily harms the children, but the bitter conflicts that follow, or the prolonged disruption of parenting as the adults sort out their lives.”

Some research shows the “disruption of parenting” or the lack of parenting is a key component. I have observed many broken homes. From my observations and the study of various books, articles, and different resources, I have concluded broken homes have certain traits.

Characteristics of broken homes

  • Can’t cope with parenting.
  • Reacts in anger toward the child(ren).
  • Desires to teach the child a lesson, hoping to change the child’s behavior.
  • Is motivated by revenge at the other parent, God or someone else.
  • Gives little or no warning regarding punishment; the child doesn’t have a chance to stop the behavior.
  • Sets the child up to fail. (Rushes most mornings, leaves the child alone with no adult nearby, and doesn’t take time to listen to the child.)
  • Gives no choices; the child is told what to do every time the parent is conversing with the child. (Consequently, the child in these types of situations does not know how to make wise choices.)
  • Puts his or her own social life before the child, or the parent has no social life.
  • Dotes on or hovers/mothers child.
  • Changes partners/lovers often.
  • Is unpredictable: laughs at behavior one day and is angry the next.
  • Allows the child to be disrespectful and controlling.
  • Sets no boundaries.
  • Rescues the child from consequences as a toddler, preschooler, and adolescent … it never ends.

At times these parents in the broken homes even take on a broken appearance. They tend to carry themselves slumped over with a beaten-down look. They take on the role of “victim.”

  • Victim of divorce
  • Victim of death
  • Victim of society
  • Victims of their economic situation
  • Even victims of their own children

Characteristics of a healthy single-parent family

  • Sets up schedules that are consistent but flexible.
  • Shows that each member of the family unit is valuable by giving each person responsibilities that contribute to the family’s well-being.
  • Communicates with each other. Everyone has a chance to contribute to the conversation, and consideration is given to what the parent has to say as well.
  • Supports one another.
  • The parent is trustworthy; if they say they are going to do something, they do it.
  • The parent is reliable.
  • They are respectful. All family members, including the parent, respect each other. In some situations, the parent is going to have to model respect.
  • Shows emotions. The adult models appropriate emotions for various situations.
  • Contributes to society; children are encouraged in this practice. And to a child, the first society they are in is the family unit.
  • The family reads and prays together. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)
  • Sets up new rituals and continues some rituals and traditions from the past.
  • Everyone in the household problem-solves together.
  • The children in the family are given age-appropriate choices about things they can control. (i.e. clothes to wear to school, bedtime schedule, which household chores they want to do, etc.)
  • They share leisure time; they play, laugh, and share humor together.

Single-parent homes have adults that have healed from the circumstances that brought them to the point of being a solo parent. They keep their children’s best interests foremost in their minds. They pursue wise counsel. The parent stays close to the Lord and the church family.

Churches can play an important role in helping parents who are parenting alone to become healthy and viable single-parent families. Set up programs that help the parent heal from the divorce by using our 13-week DivorceCare program. ( Or by using GriefShare for those who have lost a spouse to death. (  Provide help for the children so they can heal and become emotionally and spiritually healthy. Use our Single and Parenting program that teaches them to how to parent alone.



This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on April 13, 2015.

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2 thoughts on “Is there a difference between a broken home and a single parent family?

    • Thank you Chyna. Glad to know we have healthy single parent families. Feel free to pass this post to all of your friends, pastors and anyone who will listen. We need more understanding about healthy single parent families.

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