Author: Janet C. Gornick

Publication: The Triple Bind of Single-Parent Families: Resources, Employment and Policies to Improve Wellbeing. Chapter 20, pp. 437-448. 

Editors: Rense Nieuwenhuis and Laurie C. Maldonado

Publisher: Policy Press

Date: March 2018


‘The single parent’ has changed markedly. The growth of the choice element vis-à-vis one’s family structure has eroded sympathy for single parents, and the gender revolution has introduced the expectation of employment. In short, as is often noted in affluent countries, single parents as a social category have shifted from ‘deserving’ to ‘undeserving’ – in the sense that it is no longer taken as a given that the state should assume the role of their sole, or even complementary, breadwinner.

Today, many single parents face criticism and blame and social policy designs often stigmatise them – sometimes intentionally. In some cases, such as the US in the 1980s and 1990s, single parents were openly demonised in public discourse – a trend only partly reversed after large numbers of low-income single parents in the US were pushed from social assistance into employment. In contrast, among those with more education and greater economic resources, single parenting is increasingly accepted as one family form among many. Nevertheless, across the high-income countries, vast numbers of single-parent families face challenges more prevalent and more severe than those experienced by their coupled counterparts – as this book makes amply clear.

Link: The Socioeconomics of Single Parenthood: Reflections on the Triple Bind