Lone or alone? : a qualitative study of lone mothers on low income with reference to support in their everyday lives
The thesis invites women to voice their perceptions and experiences on being lone mothers, in receipt of Income Support and what 'support' means to them in their daily lives as carers of pre-school children. This qualitative study is set against firstly, the backdrop of the increasing numbers of lone mothers and their reliance on income support. Also prevalent was a negative discourse around lone motherhood. Secondly, lone mothers were encountering the consequences of a restructuring of social and welfare policy and practice, with the changing boundaries between public and private responsibilities impacting on their daily lives. Thirdly, within this changing socio-economic and political landscape, both neo-liberal and 'third way' governments identify kinship as the appropriate resource for families in need. The study draws data and analysis from the perceptions and experiences of, initially, thirty-three women in five focus groups and more particularly, from thirtyseven lone mothers on Income Support. The findings of the thesis highlight the qualitative difference between alone and not alone, lone mothers. This key, but previously underresearched distinction, is shown to turn on the quality and consistency of support. It is the degrees of availability or lack of social and material support which is found to be crucial in mediating, moderating or amplifying the aloneness of the lone mother. The research illustrates how this qualitative difference in women's lives cannot be captured within categories of quantitative data. Emphasised is how different forms of support serve as gateways through which other forms of support are accessed. What is argued is that those lacking support may face being multiply disadvantaged and experience cumulative levels of support deprivation which formal support may do little to alleviate. Lastly, while all forms of support are identified as being mutually reinforcing, child-care appears to be particularly pivotal. As a central gateway to accessing other support, it directly enhances well being and the capability to care.