single parents

single parents
   Single-parent families are also known as ‘loneparent’ or ‘one-parent’ families. There are about 1.5 million such families in the UK. Approximately one in five children live with one parent, of whom 9 percent are fathers. Just over four in ten black British families are headed by a single parent. Over 60 percent of mothers have been separated, divorced or widowed. More than half have a weekly income under £150, compared with seven percent of two-parent families. Despite the Child Support Agency (CSA), only about onethird receive maintenance.
   In 1988, the Labour government set up the New Deal for Lone Parents, to encourage them to return to work. Ninety percent want jobs, but are thwarted by lack of affordable childcare and the ‘benefits trap’, whereby additional costs such as fares reduce income to below the level of state benefits. Over 40 percent of lone mothers are in paid work, with about one million single-parent families relying on Income Support. They are often portrayed in the tabloid press as scroungers, with, for example, girls getting pregnant to obtain council houses. Yet fewer than three percent are teenagers, and single parents are usually offered smaller properties than twoparent families, with mother and child often required to share a bedroom.
   The main disadvantages for children are parental absence, economic hardship and spousal conflict. Reports suggest that poor relationships with parents (whether in one-or two-parent families) leads to lower self-esteem; more young people from lower conflict homes enter tertiary education. Thus where stress is concerned, family life could have a more direct effect on health than either material factors or cultural influences.
   The National Council for One Parent Families (NCOPF) works for the prosperity and independence of single parents and challenges negative stereotypes about their children. This organization was set up in 1918 as The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child, to rescue them from starvation on the streets. In 1970, the support group Gingerbread was established when social services would not help Raga Woods unless her family had nowhere to go. She named it after a café, The Golden House of Gingerbread, which had provided her with refreshments on the house.
   Over 70 percent of divorces are initiated by women, and one-parent families may be regarded as one of the results of the women’s liberation movement. The increasing number of single-parent families is a cause of much social anxiety.
   Further reading
    Macaskill, H. (1993) From the Workhouse to the Workplace, London: NCOPF.
   CAROLE BALDOCK

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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