Informal vs formal support mobilisation by lone mothers in Germany and the United Kingdom
This dissertation is concerned with the question of what role informal support networks play in the welfare mix of contemporary welfare states. Informal support is provided by family and friends on the one hand, and by voluntary organisations on the other. Using data from 116 semi-structured interviews with lone mothers, in the United Kingdom and Germany, the question of whether different welfare systems influence individual support mobilisation strategies is investigated. Lone mothers were selected because of their limited earning capacities which often result in a life in poverty and social exclusion - for them and for their children. It was shown in this research that informal and formal support alleviates these effects and the research project is guided by four main objectives: (1) to map ways in which lone mothers mobilise support from different sources; (2) to investigate whether lone mothers develop support mobilisation strategies in turning to formal and/or informal support sources; (3) to analyse whether differences in welfare state systems result in variances in informal support mobilisation behaviour; and finally, (4) to evaluate the role and importance of voluntary organisations as support providers for lone mothers. Empirical evidence is provided to demonstrate that informal support networks influence the utilisation of formal support. In contrast, variations in welfare state provision do not appear to have a significant impact on support mobilisation behaviour. Indeed, formal support mobilisation is a function of demographic characteristics, influenced by receipts from means-tested benefits and the extent of informal support. The utilisation of informal support was dependent on network structural and demographic variables, as well as reciprocity norms. The main finding of this research is that individual support mobilisation of lone mothers is determined by their specific circumstances, and not by their residence in different welfare states.