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  • Author or Editor: Gideon Calder x
  • Family Policy x
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Single-parent families – as seen across this book – sit in complex, shifting social positions. This is partly a reflection of the sheer range of ways in which any form of household will be shaped by wider social and economic circumstances, and in turn affect the lives of those within it. In unequal societies, it will be unsurprising to find that in general, the different circumstances that families find themselves in have a bearing on the wealth, status, wellbeing and prospects of their members. Yet, it is also because of the particular connections between single parenthood and forms of disadvantage that we have pressing reasons to seek to lessen or mute the effects of these circumstances. In comparison with others, single parents are disadvantaged in terms of income, education, health prospects and career opportunities. Because the great majority are women, they face patterns of gender disadvantage. The children of single parents are more likely to live in poverty, and less likely to do well at school. Meanwhile, their parents’ social position stems importantly from the ways in which dominant discourses around ‘appropriate’ parenting – and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parents – continue to inform both how parents see themselves and how different types of parent are perceived in contemporary society. While the family is a pivotal focal point of social policy, it is rare that single-parent families are the primary beneficiaries of policy. More than that, single parents have tended to be constructed, through policy, in ways that themselves serve to reinforce certain disadvantageous aspects of their position: as dependent, undeserving, work-avoiding or a threat to social order (Barlow et al., 2002; Davies, 2012; Phoenix, 1996; Smith, 1999).

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