Exploring the Impact of Growing Up in a Single Parent Family from an Adult Perspective: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
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This study explores the impact that growing up in a single parent family from a young age has on adulthood. Previous quantitative research suggests that children raised in this family structure encounter more difficulties throughout their lives than those in intact families. Little is known however about the meanings behind these perceived disadvantages or how they affect a child in the long run. Accordingly, the present study adopted a qualitative approach to gain insight into the meanings that adults assign to their own experiences having grown up in a single parent family. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four male and four female participants who had been raised by one parent from at least the age of five. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009). The four main themes to emerge from the analysis were ‘Unknown lasting sense of loss’, ‘Enduring fear lack and wariness’, ‘Substitution, defence and repair’ and ‘Mixed blessing’. Overall these findings suggested that the absence of a parent in early childhood represented a powerful and enduring source of pain in participants’ adult lives. Participants also expressed an appreciation for the insight their experiences had given them. By using IPA it is argued that the present study highlights the various qualities of a seemingly complex experience, which was thought to be lacking from both existing quantitative and qualitative research on children from single parent families.