and the causes of all this-as superordinate and exclusive. A particular image, such as that of lone mothers as a social threat, may be contested by less powerful lobby groups such as the NCOPF. But such attempts to insert an alternative identity for lone mothers into the categorical space still rely on the same unitary and essentialist mode of thought as that dominant in media and political portrayals. They do not admit, or recognise, diversity within the category, or that the category itself may be cross-cut or even unimportant where other differences (like those of class, ethnicity or location) may be the more influential in explaining motivations, behaviour and causes. This means, moreover, that the 'categorical identity' that ascribes a particular set of characteristics to the taxonomic group 'lone mothers' is not the same as the various 'ontological identities' of lone mothers themselves-how they think about themselves in relation to others and their situation (Duncan and Edwards 1999; Taylor 1998). These ontological considerations have little authority or power, however, and largely remain invisible unless they are used by the media to support pre-existing categories of lone motherhood as a social threat or a social problem.
In this chapter, following UK academic convention, we use 'lone motherhood' as a generic term covering divorced, separated, widowed and never-married mothers, with 'single mothers' specifically referring to never-married mothers (which in itself includes both previously cohabiting and never-cohabiting mothers). In media reports, however, the terms 'single mother' or 'single parent' tend to be used generically (and are often preferred by lone mothers themselves-see Duncan and Edwards 1999).
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