Stream 3: Social Policy and Lone Parent Families: Recognizing Diversity

Laurie C. Maldonado and Amanda Sheely

There has been significant policy attention to children growing up in single-parent families. However, we know that single- parent households are in transition and are more diverse than the often studied ‘lone mother household.’ For example, recent research has highlighted how lone parents are not only the poorly educated, never married population often targeted by lawmakers and demonized by the media, but are diverse in terms of entry points into lone parenthood, educational attainment, and labor market outcomes (Chzhen & Bradshaw, 2012).

Additionally, we know that lone parenthood is not a permanent state (Zagel, 2014). Indeed, most lone parents have either cohabitated with partners or been married in the past and will also form relationships in the future. Thus, there is growing interest to include separated fathers in the provision of care for their children, including allowing separated fathers to share parental leave with their separated partners in Sweden (Duvander & Korsell, 2018). There is also a trend across countries in children co-residing with both parents after separation – children living in shared parenting arrangements (Bergström et al. 2015).

This stream invites theory-driven empirical studies that examine the ways in which social policy recognizes and supports lone parent households in all of their diverse forms – or fails to do so. Social policies may include, but are not limited to: tax and transfers, child custody/legal frameworks, child support, parental leave, child care, wealth and assets. We invite studies to include poverty, child and adult well-being, and other outcomes.

Bergström, M., Fransson, E., Modin, B., Berlin, M., Gustafsson, P. A., & Hjern, A. (2015). Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children? Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 69(8), 769–774.

Chzhen, Y. & Bradshaw, J. (2012). Lone parents, poverty and policy in the European Union. Journal of European Social Policy, 22(5): 487-506.

Duvander, A-Z., & Korsell, N. (2018). Whose days are left? Separated parents’ use of parental leave in Sweden. In Nieuwenhuis, R. and Maldonado, L.C., (eds.) The Triple Bind of Single-Parent Families. Policy Press.

Zagel, H. (2014). Are all single mothers the same? Evidence from British and West German Women’s Employment Trajectories? European Sociological Review, 30(1): 49-63.