Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Single Motherhood, Living Arrangements, and Time with Children in Japan

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Single Motherhood, Living Arrangements, and Time with Children in Japan

Article excerpt

Parents' time with children and the frequency of shared meals have been linked to children's well-being (Musick & Meier, 2012; Zick, Bryant, & Österbacka, 2001). Single parents spend less time with their children and provide less effective monitoring and supervision rel- ative to their married counterparts (Aronson & Huston, 2004; Asmussen & Larson, 1991; Astone & McLanahan, 1991; Sandberg & Hof- ferth, 2001), and these differences contribute to the less favorable outcomes observed among children living with a single parent (Amato, 2005; McLanahan & Sandefur, 1994). With changes in policy contributing to reductions in public income support and longer work hours for single mothers in the United States (e.g., Schoeni & Blank 2000), relationships among single parenthood, parental time with children, and children's outcomes may increasingly depend on support from other family mem- bers. Private support takes many forms, but coresidential living arrangements may be a par- ticularly important source of support given that many unmarried parents live with other adults, typically a cohabiting partner or parents (Bryson & Casper, 1999; Fields, 2003; Sigle-Rushton & McLanahan, 2002).

Intergenerational solidarity theory provides a framework for understanding how support pro- vided by coresident (grand)parents may influ- ence single mothers' time with their children (e.g., Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Silverstein & Bengston, 1997). Hypotheses suggested by this theory are ambiguous, however. On the one hand, the financial, instrumental, and emotional support provided by coresident (grand)parents may affect the personal circumstances of single mothers in ways that allow them to spend more time with their children. For example, inter- generational support could limit the need for mothers' long work hours and supplement their limited economic resources, both of which are factors that contribute to stress that negatively affects single mothers' emotional health and, by extension, their parenting practices (Carlson & Corcoran, 2001). On the other hand, it is also possible that support provided by coresi- dent (grand)parents, including childrearing sup- port, directly substitutes for mothers' time with children, allowing them to invest more time in employment or other nonfamily activities.

Research that focuses explicitly on the relationship between single mothers' living arrangements and the time they spend with their children has yet to be conducted, and findings from analyses of household structure and chil- dren's outcomes are mixed. Some studies have found that single mothers and their children fare better in multigenerational families (Aquilino, 1996; Brandon, 2005; DeLeire & Kalil, 2002; Mutchler & Baker, 2009), some have found that they fare worse (Black & Nitz, 1996; Chase-Lansdale, Brooks-Gunn, & Zamsky, 1994), and others have found that relationships differ depending on mothers' race and the measure of well-being considered (Dunifon & Kowaleski-Jones, 2007).

This ambiguity in both hypothesized rela- tionships and empirical evidence in research on the United States highlights the importance of examining similar research questions in other settings. Comparative studies have docu- mented cross-national variation in the economic well-being of single mothers (Uunk, 2004) and in the outcomes of children in single-parent families (Hampden-Thompson & Pong, 2005; Park, 2007), but none have examined the ways in which coresidence with other family mem- bers may be associated with the time that single mothers spend with their children. We thus have no empirical basis on which to evaluate the gen- erality of patterns observed in the United States or to assess the ways in which context may shape relationships between single-mothers' living arrangements and time with children. This is an important limitation in light of theo- retical reasons to believe that intergenerational exchange of resources and services (instru- mental solidarity) should be more pronounced in "strong family" countries, where normative obligations to support family members (norma- tive solidarity) are stronger (e. …

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