Is it important for a child to grow up with a mother figure?
Yes, because the mother can teach the child how to care, be a mother and is she is a girl the mother can help her when she has her first period.
In a milieu in which gender roles are being hotly challenged, this is a challenging question. I think one way to address the question is to say that in a world divided between testosterone dominance and estrogen dominance, yes, a child needs a figure who is estrogen dominant just as fully as a child needs a figure who is testosterone dominant. Studies have shown that people of estrogen and testosterone dominance have different hardwiring in their brains that makes their world views and responses to external stimuli different from one another.
Unfortunately, every mother is not loving and caring, which is the assumption you make in your explanation. While every child needs love and guidance from responsible adults in their lives, a parent may not be able or available to to give those things. Two loving parents are best; for those who do not have that blessing, other adults are able to fill in that gap.
An interesting quote, "Mothers teach us what we should be, fathers teach us what we are," puts in perspective that each parent plays a different role in the family. Children learn from nurturing and encouragement, but they also learn from example. When the father serves as an example, children may give this example more credibility since the father is often better able to separate what should be from what he feels. There often is the doubt in the mind of the children that mother only says and does things for the good of her children, while they realize that the father acts out of a sense of ethics more than anything else.
This observation is also generalized, but psychologists have done many studies in the area of child-rearing and some theories hold true in a multitude of cases.
Basic biology would indicate that two parents are needed to create an offspring and my opinion is that evolution as well as social and cultural norms would say that the "ideal" setting would be two parents. However, I think the attitudes and actions of the parental figure(s) is MUCH more important than the number or sex of those figure(s). One involved, caring, nurturing parent is better than two abusive or even simply distant parents. Role models and nurturing persons of either sex and of any age can be found, especially if a caring single parent recognizes a need to involve someone with a different background or set of perceptions in the child-rearing process.
If this were the 19th century I would have agreed with you, and only if I were a puritan. Other than that, let's return to the 21st century when we have a number of women who have succeeded without the guidance or even without the help of a mature female figure. I believe that the females who have been influenced by their fathers are actually more driven and ambitious, and STILL I am making a gross stereotype by stating that. However, as we see that mothers in the 21st century are as capable of abuse and neglect as they ever were, we must be careful to never generalize what are the expectations for females in the modern world.
It may be a slightly old fashioned point of view, but I think all children benefit from growing up in a two-parent household. I see both the mother and father as equally important, and children growing up under such circumstances will hopefully see that it's the best way for them to raise a family in the future. The balance between the mother's nurturing touch and the father's masculine influences are bound to give children a better rounded upbringing.
When a child grows up with only one parent, there are often adults of the other sex who can play an important role in a child's life. Sometimes this is a close relative. Sometimes teachers or coaches are can take an interest. Sometimes a member of the community will. And also, there are organizations that can help. On another note, research on same-sex partnerships and marriages suggests that there seem to be no particular difficulties in this regard.
I agree with the second post about two parents being best. In addition to modeling the ideal "normal," I believe that having two parents is the child's first exposure to the idea that people are all different and one must relate to different kinds of people throughout life. And then there are all the Freudian considerations, having to do with a child's need to go through various stages of sexual development. I haven't read anything about the Freudian take on same-sex parenting, though, perhaps because Freud does not seem to be in fashion right now.
I think that it is a little stereotyped to say that only a mother can teach a child to care. I also hope that mothers are important to boys as well...
This is a difficult question to answer. One the one hand, I think that it is important for kids to grow up with parental figures of both sexes. If nothing else, kids realize that having two parents is "normal" and will feel that something is missing in their lives if they lack a mother figure. On the other hand, I do not think that a child who grows up with a father only is necessarily harmed by that experience. Now that gender roles are so much less sharply defined than they once were, I think that having a parent of each sex is less important than it once was.