The Silent Link Between Single Motherhood and PTSD

Arah Iloabugichukwu
8 min readDec 6, 2021

Are single-mothers suffering from an invisible mental health crisis?

Of all the controversy surrounding the biological drama, King Richard, the one thing that most stood out to me was the clear contrast between the life depicted by the children he physically parented and the ones he abandoned. Sabrina Williams, the older half-sister of Venus and Serena Williams, revealed to reporters the aftermath of life without her father, who left one afternoon and never returned. “I was eight when my dad left and said he was getting a bike for me and that’s the last I saw of him. My mom told me later that he’s never coming back. We went from having everything to nothing.” She recounted. “I thought I was dad’s favorite and he loved me to death. But once he left, within a year, we became very poor. There wasn’t always meals on the table. We went downhill. My mom became stressed out with six kids, trying to provide for us, she became aggressive.”

Sabrina went on to describe severe beatings that could only be avoided through manual labor and isolation, admitting she’d often considered suicide to escape the drear of her day-to-day. Her mother never recovered, neither financially, emotionally, nor otherwise. Both had suffered their own trauma at the hands of the self-proclaimed King. Sabrina and her five siblings lived a life like many children raised in single-parent homes, exposed to family and community violence, impoverished, and quietly coping with unaddressed mental health challenges. And while most research centers on its impact on childhood development, little is done to explore the toll of unplanned single parenthood on the mental health of the custodial parent.

Sabrina describes a woman who almost suddenly became avoidant, aggressive, easily agitated, and emotionally detached. Most research relating to single mothers would associate her behavior with the onset of depression, and I honestly couldn’t think of a more depressing situation than experiencing or having to explain to six children something so devastatingly and inexplicable. But there’s another lesser discussed disorder that encompasses all these elements, we know it to be Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now half of you just huffed at the suggestion that the same affliction faced by combat veterans and refugees of war could be…

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Arah Iloabugichukwu

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