Decades ago, single mothers in the U.S. had reported levels of unhappiness shared when raising a family solely. With financial struggles and the added responsibility and stigma of bringing up children on their own presented problems for many mothers, so too did the belief that their unhappiness seemed to point primarily at their single life. But in a new study, single mothers are reportedly much happier today than their counterparts had been decades ago.
With new research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, assistant professors John Ifcher and Homa Zarghamee led a General Social Survey which looked to a variety of single mothers from 1972-2008 by using cross sectional data. Looking for possible reasons regarding the unhappiness in these single mothers, Ifcher and Zarghamee found that financial stresses seemed to be less of a contributing factor compared to being single. “The fact that they’re single seems to explain a lot of why they’re less happy,” said Ifcher. But over time, they found women in single motherhood situations had reported less levels of unhappiness while other women, such as married mothers or childless women, had seen just the opposite.
While the authors first acknowledged that single parents raising children alongside a partner or receiving benefits from the welfare program (which implemented changes in the early 1990’s) could contribute to this rise in happiness, the new studies that say single mothers are much happier today than they were decades ago was simply due to the lessened stigma facing single mother’s in general. With this stigma having improved somewhat since the past and with divorce rates higher than ever, children being raised by single mothers seems commonplace for many families. Ifcher and Zarghamee also feel it could be contributed to single women who are choosing when and if to have children on their own. According to a Pew Research Center Report, 25 percent of single mother’s in 2011 showed a greater happiness rate toward their situation compared to 7 percent of mother’s raising children in 1960.
These days, 1 in 3 children are being raised fatherless. While most of today’s generation is seemingly more lenient when it comes to single mother’s raising children on their own, others view and perpetuate the stigma surrounding single motherhood with popular myths suggesting children who are raised by single mothers will come from broken homes and destructive lifestyles. Thought’s of traditional marriage only settings is also contributing to the stigma facing single mothers. While many point to these single mothers as often being young and irresponsible, new studies within the last year are finding that teenage birth rates are in fact declining and more older working women are choosing to have children.
Ifcher and Zarghamee are planning to follow up on these new studies that say single mothers are much happier today than they were decades ago to see whether the same will still hold true for mothers, children and their economical situations.
Written by Annie Elizabeth Martin