Single parenting is becoming more prevalent to today?s society. Families with one parent homes tend to have less income causing them to end in poverty. Poverty is a generational problem. The children of these situations are more likely to follow the same trends. The tradition of providing public assistance to women with children is now being called into question. Although such assistance improves their economic position and enables them to stay home with their children, it also fosters long-term welfare dependence and may encourage out-of-wedlock births (Brown & Lichter, 2004). This tension between the desire to provide economic security to such families and the need to stem their growth and dependence on government is the new American dilemma. The growing number of single parents introduces a variety of problems including; welfare reform, depression, stressors, and the cycle to up lift out of poverty and becoming successful. This paper will focus on the effects of single mothers specifically.
Single mothers face many challenges to obtaining economic security. In 1996 America implemented a new welfare policy called Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act or PRWORA (Brown & Lichter, 2004). This act wanted to encourage economic self sufficiency, in doing so they placed strict time limits on the ability to receive cash assistance. Stemming from this act there was a recorded decline of more than fifty percent of welfare caseloads (Brown & Lichter, 2004). There has been no research on whether the declining welfare caseloads and rising maternal employment rates have improved the life circumstances of single mothers until recently. Single mothers have the burden of facing the daily challenge of making ends meet and becoming able to create equilibrium between their commitments to work and family.
Providing single mothers can find a good job, a major down fall is the cost of daycare in our society. Close family and friends often lack the means to assist with daycare or any other financial assistance in times of need. The jobs available to single mothers often lack stability and offer few benefits (Brown & Lichter, 2004). A large quantity of single mothers who leave welfare to obtain employment become unemployed and must seek assistance, many of the mothers find it difficult to maintain stable employment (Brown & Lichter, 2004). With this in mind, work based solutions to poverty are less likely to be a solution to poverty and welfare dependency for mothers who have limited educational background and small amounts of job training opportunities. Mother?s employment has many benefits along with financial independence; it improves self esteem, and increases access to social networks that enhance a mother?s psychological well-being (Samuels-Dennis, 2007).
Around forty percent of non-marital births in the United States are born to cohabitating couples (Brown & Lichter, 2004). Cohabitation seems to be a growing economic livelihood strategy. Moving in with your significant other may be an adaptive way to deal with economic hardship. According to Brown and Lichter children living with their single mothers and her cohabitating partner are less likely to be poor than children living with only their single mother. Cohabitation can offer financial stability and nonfinancial benefits for a single mother. This also may allow the single mother to have more time to work more hours, search for employment or continue their education without the added costs of childcare.
As an economic livelihood strategy, obtaining government cash assistance allows an alternative to work and economic support from family and friends. Low cash assistance levels are often insufficient to meet even the most basic needs for food and shelter and clothing (Brown & Lichter, 2004). A lack of jobs and unreliable transportation and inadequate childcare can place mothers at a greater risk of being sanctioned off welfare for not compiling with the mandated work requirements (Brown & Lichter, 2004).
Education is associated with better paying jobs and stable employment opportunities reducing the dependency of single mothers. According to the National Survey of Family Growth thirty-three percent of single mothers have not completed high school, 59 percent have completed high school and maybe even some college. The remaining 9 percent have college degrees. With these statistics it is inferable that higher education would reduce the likelihood of government assistance. Reduction of welfare dependency, economic self-sufficiency through work, education and the promotion of two parent households continue to be the goal of the welfare reform agenda.
Single mothers especially ones on social assistance have reported significantly more depressive