Who's Fit to Be a Parent?

By Mukti Jain Campion | Go to book overview

12

Single mothers

SINGLE PARENTS 'CRIPPLE LIVES'.

(© The Telegraph plc, London 2/8/91)

We must face the truth about these tragic children. One parent families bring misery for parents, young people…and society.

(Daily Mail 2/8/91)

The above article was accompanied by a photograph posed by models, of a well-dressed mother in a booklined room sitting with her daughter, both looking wistfully into the distance. Its message was clear: even well-heeled single mothers are pitiable and undesirable parents. Single parents are selfish, immoral scroungers off the welfare state whose children are deprived and destined to a life of disadvantage. However, what was once viewed as a morally reprehensible aberration of a particular subculture is now increasingly becoming commonplace in western societies throughout all classes.

Since the 1970s the number of single-parent families has more than doubled (Population Trends 67 1992), bringing widespread consternation. The reasons for this rise is the high break-up of relationships combined with the falling social stigma of lone parenting. But the causes behind the high break-up of relationships are in themselves more complex. For example, there are now far greater expectations of relationships to be personally fulfilling, there is more acceptance of sex outside of marriage, the availability of contraception gives perhaps a false sense of control, more social mobility and personal isolation reduce the effects of stigma as a means for social control but also as a source of support for troubled relationships, the influence of religious codes on family life is falling away, and more pressures on individuals as consumers and workers has led to a confusion about the relative importance of marriage and children.

The vast majority (about 90 per cent) of single-parent families are headed by women, so the focus of the criticisms of single parents has been on single mothers. Lone fathers have been less scrutinised but I will consider them separately in Chapter 13.

-205-

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Who's Fit to Be a Parent?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Parents on Trial 5
  • 1 - The State Versus Parents 7
  • 2 - Other People's Children 38
  • 3 - Parents Apart 63
  • 4 - Playing God 96
  • 5 - Key Themes from Part I 117
  • Part II - Parents on the Edge 129
  • 6 - Disabled Parents 133
  • 7 - Mentally Handicapped Parents 151
  • 8 - Drug Addicted Mothers 168
  • 9 - Gay Parents 177
  • 10 - Teenage Mothers 189
  • 11 - Older Mothers 197
  • 12 - Single Mothers 205
  • 13 - Lone Fathers 217
  • 14 - Working Mothers 225
  • 15 - Black Parents 239
  • 16 - Key Themes from Part II 261
  • Part III - The Job Description 269
  • 17 - The Ideal Model and the Actual Model of Fit Parenting 271
  • 18 - Implications of the Actual Model of Fit Parenting to Assessment 281
  • 19 - Looking Forward 300
  • Bibliography 303
  • Index 309
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