In the present-day world, single-parent families are under a considerable threat due to the lack of support and the feeling of uncertainty that arises once one of the spouses leaves, whether it is due to a breakup, a divorce or a freak accident. Despite the fact that single fathers also have to face a number of challenges in the course of raising a child or children on their own, especially if they have to build relationships with their teenage daughters (Cherlin, 2013, April 17).
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However, according to the latest researches, financially and socially, fathers have more chances to bring balance back into the family. The given task is much more complicated for single mothers, however. There is no secret that single mothers are often stereotyped negatively to the point of being shunned by the society, which results in lower chances of getting a decent job and becoming socially active. As a result, in families headed by single mothers, parent drinking and poverty are upsettingly frequent cases.
However, single mothers still have a number of advantages that they often forget about; once these advantages are put to use, it can be expected that single mothers will be able to build strong relationships with their children and provide for the latter.
In their article Single mothers, welfare and low-wage work, Kathryn Edin and Laura Lien explore the opportunities that single mothers could use to overcome the challenges that they have to face in social, economical and financial fields. The authors start with a general observation of the current situation concerning the “economic well-being of mother-only families” (Edin & Lien, 1997); thereafter, four cities of the United States are chosen to see how the theory of single parenting is put into practice. Afterwards, Edin and Lien highlight the major demands that single mothers are usually supposed to meet in society, as well as within their families. The next step that the authors take concerns descriptions of the research methodology and design; by stating their method of research, Edin and Lien make it clear that their study is going to shake the stereotypical thinking off the readers’ minds and make the readers see the real-life challenges and experiences of single mothers.
It is noteworthy that, despite the fact that the given article dates way back to 1997, it still remains topical – single mothers still exist, they face the same old issues mentioned by Edin and Lien, and are forced to fight the same prejudice in order to have decent jobs and be able to raise their children. Likewise, the poverty issue is still a major problem for single mothers, even though it has been more than a decade since the article was published. Therefore, the given article offers a unique opportunity to analyze the approaches undertaken in the distant 1997 to address single parenting issue, evaluate the effects of these approaches and compare then to the methods used in the contemporary world.
It should also be kept in mind that the given article can be related to a large variety of social features. The first and the most obvious social feature that the given work can be linked to is gender (Risman, & Seale, 2010)). Indeed, the authors of the article state clearly that these are single mothers who are in their focus – not single fathers. Therefore, in some way, the given article is a study of persistent gender issues in the society and the means to fight with these issues (West & Zimmerman, 1987).
On the other hand, the link to the low-income families is also quite evident – first, for the most part, single-parent families typically lack money, since a single parent has to handle both the chores and money-making; second, single parenting is infamously common among the people with negative social, economical and financial background. Therefore, the issue of social class is also pretty clear.
Though not mentioned clearly, race is also under consideration, seeing how, according to the statistics, African American and Latino families face single parenting issues more often in the U.S. The last, but definitely not the least, age is also mentioned briefly as one of the factors that make single parenting even more complicated.
The authors of the article definitely offer an extensive description of their methods of research, making it clear that the project is going to be based on the information acquired from sampling and from numerous interviews with the mothers who have been upbringing their children on their own, at the same time managing to deal with the household and earn money for them and their children to live on.
The article also offers a range of research questions that the further study on the given issue is going to answer; it is remarkable that Edin and Lien consider not only such issues as where single mothers usually work, but also what stands behind single mothers’ decision to work instead of living on welfare, and what material hardships single mothers face when trying to provide for their children.
The article ends with the description of the future interviews that the authors were going to conduct in order to get the information on single mothers in low-income setting.
There is no need to stress that a number of things have changes since the given article was written; therefore, the given paper is going to draw parallels between the concerns of the late 90s and the issues that single mothers are facing in the present-day world. As a matter of fact, the basic concept of sustaining families, both single-parent and complete ones, has remained the same since the article was published.
To be more exact, even today, the list of measures and works that have to be carried out in order to preserve a family remains the same. According to the existing theories, there are a number of works that families have to do in order to survive; primarily, these are the attempts at acquiring new skills and knowledge in order to get a better paid job.
As Cherlin stresses, in the U.S., a country with the highest percentage of single parents raising children on their own (approx. ¼ of the total number of families in the USA (Bianchi, 2011, 18), the education that single mothers have attained is the defining factor of their annual income; those single mothers who have low educational attainment often happen to drag their families in the risk group of families stricken by poverty (Cherlin, 2013).
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Indeed, it is no big wonder that the women who have to raise children, earn money and do the household chores at the same time are unable to earn enough money to sustain their families (Mason, 2003). As a solution for the given problem, Cherlin offers welfare and charity organizations that could possibly provide such single mothers with the necessary supplies (Cherlin, 2013a).
However, it is quite remarkable that the given idea is not new; in fact, it was used widely in the 90s as well – and, unfortunately, with little to no success. Despite the fact that Edin and Lien tell about the cases when single mothers were able to use the charity services as the means to start a new life and be able to earn money on their own, Edin and Lien explain that such examples are rather exceptions than common cases:
… despite her tight budget, Moore was more fortunate than most former welfare recipients. Not only did she earn more money per hour than most women with similar skills and education, she was able to work more hours than most, and she had not been laid off. She was fortunate enough to live in a subsidized apartment and had a day care subsidy for her preschool children. (Edin & Lien, 1997)
The example provided by Edin and Lien also cannot be considered as a common case because of the advantages that Moore had: “Finally, Moore’s mother was willing and able to take on many of the parenting tasks while Moore was at work” (Edin & Lien, 1997). The given detail, however, begs the question whether the present-day single mothers in the U.S. could have the same opportunity. Indeed, a single mother with a small child to care about cannot possibly be too old to have no relatives to ask for help from.
Instead, the relationship between a single mother and her relatives might be somewhat constrained – perhaps, due to the marriage mistakes that the mother has made, etc. Therefore, the works that could be done to make single-parent families stronger could also be focused on improving the relationships between a single mother and her relatives. Once having a support from at least one person, a single mother will most likely find the strength to improve her skills, search for a well-paid job and start leading a decent life.
Bianchi, S. M. (2011). Changing families, changing workplaces. The Future of Children, 21(2), 15–36.
Cherlin, A. J. (2013). Public and private families: An introduction (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Cherlin, A. J. (2013a). Public and private families: A reader (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Cherlin, A. J. (2013, April 17). In the season of marriage, a question. Why bother? The New York Times. Web.
Edin, K. & Lien, L. (1997). Single mothers, welfare and low-wage work. New York Times. Web.
Mason, M. A. (2003). The modern American family: Problems and possibilities. In M. A. Mason, A. Skolnick & S. D. Sugarman (Eds.), All our families. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Risman, B. J. & Seale, E. (2010). Betwixt and between: Gender contradictions in middle school. In B. J. Risman (Ed.), All our families,. New York, NY: Norton.
West, C. & Zimmerman, D. (1987). Doing gender. Gender and Society, 1(2), 125 – 151.