A University of Stirling academic has called on the Government to increase payments for unemployed single parents in order to bring about improvements in child wellbeing.
Dr Morag Treanor, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, also said there is a need to support lone parents into stable employment that enables them to earn a decent wage.
Writing in the newly published book, ‘The Triple Bind of Lone Parents’, Dr Treanor challenges existing research that promotes lone-parenthood as having a negative impact on child wellbeing.
In the chapter entitled ‘Income poverty, material deprivation and lone parenthood’, she argues that in fact single parents face the same (or sometimes greater) disadvantages as their children.
“Lone parents have a tripartite set of circumstances that disadvantage them: inadequate resources, inadequate employment and inadequate policies,” she says.
“Our findings show how inadequate resources and inadequate employment, rather than the status of lone parenthood and family transitions, are associated with poorer levels of child wellbeing.
“This exonerates lone-parents, in Scotland at least, from the blame and shame associated with the lower wellbeing of their children, and points the finger of blame instead to inadequate policies for lone-parents.”
She adds: “Policies aimed directly at children will always have an easier transition and garner more support than those aimed at lone-parents, but a bold step is required.
“If the UK government is disinclined to take that step then the Scottish government, with its increasing powers devolved from Westminster, ought to take up the mantle.”
Dr Treanor analysed data from Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) - a longitudinal birth cohort study with a nationally representative sample of more than 5,000 children born in Scotland in 2004-5.
She found that the wellbeing of children in single-parent families is more determined by income and material deprivation than by lone-parenthood or changing family formations.
The data also showed that the longer a parent was single, the less likely they were to be in employment or to have regular work hours. As a result, long-term single parents were more likely to experience persistent poverty.
Dr Treanor has been invited to speak at an event organised by NHS Health Scotland with Education Scotland and the Scottish Government on: ‘Flipping the thinking on poverty and its impact on children’s outcomes’.
The event, on Wednesday 21 March, offers an opportunity for health and education colleagues to explore the causes and consequences of child poverty and how misunderstandings can present barriers to, and direct attention away from, action required to prevent and alleviate its effects.
“We will look at how can we ‘flip the thinking’ and challenge notions of ‘poverty of aspiration’ and individual-based solutions,” said Dr Treanor.
She will also take part in an event called 'Skivers, Scroungers, Junkies and Neds: Challenging working class stereotypes in Scotland' at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow (13 March).
She will join Kevin Neary from Aid and Abet, and Darren 'Loki' McGarvey, author of the Poverty Safari, to discuss the damaging and often false stereotypes that pervade politics and culture regarding the contemporary working class.
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Notes to editors
‘The Triple Bind of Single-Parent Families’, edited by Nieuwenhuis, Rense and Maldonado, Laurie C, is published by Policy Press.