Why some women choose not to have children

Birth rates have been falling for decades, in practically every country on earth. But not only are women having fewer children, more women are remaining childless for their entire lives.

15% of women in the United States now remain childless into their late 40s.

However, this choice to remain child-free isn’t one that comes easy.

The Guardian newspaper recently released some videos of interviews with women of various different ages who have chosen to remain childless reveal the fact that they often have to battle against the social norm that they should become mothers.

All of the women in this video explain that they were brought up with the norm that ‘normal’ women wanted children and would at some point have children.

They say that most of the subtle pressure to have children comes from their families, their own mothers and female relatives, but also their female friends and work colleagues.

If they tell a work colleague that they don’t want kids, the typical response back is that ‘you’ll want them one day’, as if the already-mothers or ‘pro-mums to be’ brush off their ‘not wanting kids’ attitude as temporary insanity, and thus to be disregarded.

One of the interviewees talks about how not having kids was never presented as a choice to her during early socialisation – it wasn’t until she was a teenager that she came across the idea that remaining childless was a legitimate choice for women.

An argument for not having children

In a recent piece written for the Guardian entitled ‘Why I don’t have a child: I cherish my freedom‘ Ann Neumann argues for the benefits of not having children.

She starts off pointing out the obvious freedoms that come with being childless – such as being able to pick up and move and switch jobs/ set up businesses/ go travelling whenever she likes, but she also says she has found freedom in a more profound sense – the freedom to be creative and to pursue and to develop her own career as she sees fit.

Finally, Neumann says that having remained child-free until her menopause has given her a fresh perspective on the whole status of childless women, and she presents a broadly radical-feminist that sees becoming a mother as the main event that locks women into traditionally gendered carer-roles , chained because they are mothers.

She also reminds us that all other things being equal it is much easier to free yourself form an abusive relationship if you have your own income, which is much more likely if you are not a mother!

There is a cost to remaining childless:

Women who remain childless have to pay for it:

  • Quite literally pay for contraception, and possibly abortions (she’s had two)
  • You have to be mentally disciplined enough to stick to a contraceptive routine.
  • You have to put up with the ‘too-personal inquiries’ in to why you’ve never had children (our female bodies are never our own),
  • And you have to suffer the loss of social status that comes with being motherless, as ‘mothers are the moral future of the nation’.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This would fit right in with the ‘Feminist theory‘ of the family, and is also of relevance to changing family patterns (declining birth rates) in the sociology of the family.

A-level sociology families and households: course summary, schemes of work and lesson plans

I’ve been consolidating my A-level sociology planning recently, and I’ve concluded it’s useful to have several different versions of module summaries and schemes of work, as below:

  • A mind map overview/ summary
  • A Power Point overview/ summary
  • A brief scheme of work
  • A long scheme of work
  • Detailed individual lesson plans.

All of these are based on the AQA’s specification, for the families and households topic.

Mind map overview of education

This is mind map number 1, the Borg equivalent of Unimatrix Zero. There are many other mind maps which branch off it – each colour thread itself becomes the central focus for more mind maps!

Power Point overview of education

Should need no explanation, about as brief as it can get.

Brief education Families Scheme of Work

A very brief version to be displayed in classrooms, an at a glance’ version so students can see where they are in the course and what’s coming next.

Long education Families Scheme of Work

This is a grid consisting of sub-topics, concepts, research studies, assessment and resources for each sup-topic. This more in-depth version follows the AQA specification rigidly and should include everything students need to know.

NB this is slightly different to the overview and lesson plans as some ‘lessons’ go beyond the specification or fuse different areas of it together.

Detailed Lesson Plans  

These are really for teachers only, and contain detailed minute by minute lesson plans with aims and objectives, resources and extension ideas.

New Resource: Families and Households teaching bundle for A-level sociology

All of the above are available as part of my ‘sociology of education teaching bundle’. One downloadable bundle including fully modifiable teaching resources in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Only £49.95, or as part of a monthly subscription package for £9.99 a month!

The bundle includes:

  • A detailed scheme of work covering the entire AQA specification for the families and households topic 
  • 24 detailed lesson plans (topics below)
  • Seven student work packs on Perspectives, class, gender, ethnicity and education policies. 
  • PowerPoints to accompany most lessons. 
  • Activities such as role play games, sentence sorts, gap fills. 

NB I have had to remove most of the pictures from these materials for copyright reasons, but the idea is that you can always add these in yourself to beautify them!

Lessons covered:

  1. An introduction to the sociology of families and households
  2. The Functionalist perspective on the family
  3. The Marxist perspective on the family
  4. The Marxist/ Feminist perspectives on the family
  5. The Feminist perspective on the family
  6. The New Right view of the family
  7. The Postmodern and Personal Life Perspective on the family
  8. Consolidation Families and households Assessment Lesson – focussing on evaluation skills and essay writing.
  9. Exploring and explaining trends in marriage
  10. Exploring and explaining trends in divorce
  11. Evaluating sociological perspectives on marriage and divorce
  12. Exploring and explaining increasing family diversity – ‘organisational diversity’
  13. Exploring family diversity by social class, ethnicity, and sexuality
  14. Evaluating the view that families are becoming more diverse
  15. Power in relationships: housework and childcare
  16. Power in relationships: perspectives on domestic violence
  17. Is Childhood Socially Constructed?
  18. Evaluating the March of Progress View of Childhood
  19. Is Childhood Disappearing?
  20. Birth and Death Rates
  21. The challenges of the Ageing Population
  22. Migration and family life
  23. Social Policies and family life 1
  24. Social Policies and family life 2

The Handmaid’s Tale – Possible in Real Life?

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel written by Margaret Atwood in 1985.

This might be a novel, but it’s a useful way to introduce social policy and the family! It’s also an example of a type of secondary qualitative data!

The novel is set in the United States and imagines a future where the majority of women have been rendered infertile because of environmental toxins, and the few women left who are fertile and able to bare children have become ‘handmaids’.

‘Handmaids’ are given to elite families, required to have ritualistic sex with the male heads of households so that they can bear the families children.

The country is run by a totalitarian state (called ‘Gillead’) which subscribes to a conservative christian ideology and maintains tight control over many aspects of people’s lives, but especially the Handmaids – these are brought up in ‘convent like’ schools, and educated into their role as ‘breeders’ – they effectively get passed around from elite family to elite family to bear multiple children for them.

The novel is told through the eyes of the main character, Offred. What is particularly bleak is that Offred remembers life before Gilead, when things were relatively normal – declining fertility rates eventually lead to a slide into this totatlitarian control over women.

The novel is nicely summarized in the video below.


You can also watch the TV adaptation on More 4 here.

Social Policy and the Family in the Handmaid’s Tale

Government policy towards families is extremely controlling of women in htis novel. The Gilead Theocratic State has near total control over women’s reproduction – fertile women effectively have no right to control their own fertility – that right is given to the elite families.

Fertile women also have no right over their children, these are given away to the families the Handmaid belongs to.

Could this level of control over women happen in real life?

Atwood refers to her novel as ‘speculative fiction’ – a situation which could happen in the future.

The book was a commentary on the political and social climate of the United States in the 1980s, with the widespread embrace of conservatism, as evidenced by the election of Ronald Reagan as president, the increasing power of the Christian right and its powerful lobbying organisations such as the ‘Moral Majority’ and ‘Focus on the Family’, as well as the rise of televangelism.

Commentators such as Joyce Carol Oates and English professor SC Neuman have suggested that the book is a Feminist crititique of the attempted restriction of women’s reproductive rights which various Christian Fundamentalist lobby groups were trying to bring into law – such as giving civil rights protections to foetuses, which would have effectively made abortion illegal.

Atwood herself says that the Handmaid’s Tale was inspired by two real world social polices:

  • Nicolai Ceausescu’s preoccupation with boosting female birth rates in Romania, which led to the policing of pregnant women and the banning of abortion and birth control
  • The idea of ‘giving’ the offspring of lower classes to the ruling class came from Argentina, where a military junta seized power in 1976, subsequently ‘disappearing’ up to 500 children and placing them with selected leaders.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Even more relevant today?

The handmaid’s tale might be even more relvant today given the recent shift in US politics with the election of Donald Trump dovetailing with fears of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his vice president’s anti-gay and anti-abortion beliefs.

Handmaid costumes even became common at protests of laws intended to limit women’s reproductive freedom.

Sources: Some of this post was adapted from this blog post.

Britain’s Ageing Population – Is it a Problem?

This post provides an overview of statistics on Britain’s ageing population before looking at some of the problems associated with this trend, including the increased strain on health services and increased burden on young people. It also asks whether the ageing population is actually a problem or not?

Statistics on the Ageing Population

  • In 1998, around one in six people were 65 years and over (15.9% of the population )
  • In 2020, approximately in five people are aged 65 years and over
  • By 2038 it is protected that around one in every four people (24.2%) will be aged 65 and over.

Population Pyramids

These are a nice way of demonstrating Britain’s changing population structure:

The UK’s Age Structure in 1998

The UK’s Age Structure in 2038 (projected)

If you look at the above two population pyramids, you can clearly see a ‘bulge’ around age 30 in 1998, which has disappeared in 2038.

The age structure in 2038 is a much more even, and less like a pyramid.

This is simply a result of people getting older and fewer babies being born (the declining birth rate over the last few decades).

The Dependency Ratio

The Dependency Ratio refers to the number of people of working age in relation to the number of people of non-working age. The later group includes children and people of pensionable age, in 2020 that means everone aged over 65. In the 1990s there used to be

The Office for National Statistics uses this measurement, which is the number of people of pensionable age in relation to those aged 16-64 (working age) per thousand.

The old age dependency ratio was 300:1000 (3.3 workers to each pensioner) in 1992 , it is project to increase to 400:1000 (2.5 workers to each pensioner) by 2067.

The problem of the increasing dependency ratio

Every pensioner in the UK is entitled to a state pension and a range of other ‘free at the point of use’ public services, mainly health-care. These are paid for by taxes on the income of current workers, and the fewer workers to pensioners, the more each worker has to be taxed to pay for pensions and services used by pensioners.

All other things remaining equal, taxes are going to have to increase by 25% based on the above change in the dependency ratio.

One possible way of combating this problem is for more people of pensionable age to work, and in fact this is already happening – the economic activity levels of the over 65s has doubled in the last few decades:

An increased strain on public services

Increasing numbers of pensioners puts a strain on the NHS because pensioners use health services more than younger people.

With increasing numbers of pensioners ‘sucking money’ out of the welfare state’ there is less left for everything else – services for the young are being cut to compensate

This is because healthy life expectancy is not keeping pace with life-expectancy, and there are increasing numbers of people in their 80s who spend several years with chronic physical conditions such as arthritis, and also dementia both of which require intensive social care.

While the ageing population presents problems, there are solutions – such as improving education about how to stay healthy in later life, changing ideas about working so that people are able to work for longer could be part of the solution.

Problems for younger people

People in their 50s have become a ‘sandwich generation’ – they are now caught between having to provide care for their elderly parents, while still having their 20 something children living at home.

However, things are even worse for today’s teenagers – the retirement aged has now been pushed back to 68 – young people today are going to have to retire much later than their current grandparents.

While the ageing population presents problems, there are solutions – such as improving education about how to stay healthy in later life, changing ideas about working so that people are able to work for longer could be part of the solution.

Arguments against the view that the ageing population is a problem

We ned to be careful not to exaggerate the extend to which old people are a ‘burden’ on society, these often come from stereotypical ways of thinking about age. Not all old people are incapable or in poor health! Most older people live healthy lives into old age and increasing numbers of the over 65s are economically active.

Effective long-term planning and forward-looking social policy changes today can help reduce some of the problems associated with the dependency ratio, such as raising the state pension age.

Marxists think attitudes to old age are influenced by capitalism. Marxist suggest that age groups are defined by the capitalist system. For example, adults are people of working age, and the elderly are told old to work. Philipson (1982) capitalism views the elderly as burden on society. This is because their working life has ended, and they usually have less spending power. Therefore, old age become stigmatised in society.

Postmodernists argue attitudes to age are changing. Magazine, advertisers and the media generally often portray “youthful” old age – old people enjoying holidays, sport, wearing fashionable clothes etc. People can also mask their old age through plastic surgery. The strict identity of old age no longer exists.

Sources

Related posts

The aging population is a consequence of the declining death rate, and the increasing dependency ratio is a consequence of this plus the declining birth rate. Hence these two posts might be worth reviewing:

For some extension work, you might like this: The consequences of an ageing population – summary of a Thinking Allowed Podcast from 2015 which focuses on the challenges of a future in which increasing numbers of people will be aged over 70.

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Social Policy and the family in Global Context

How do policies on family life vary from country to country? This post explores some of the cross national variations in policies on the following aspects of family life:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Benefits for single parents
  • Maternity and paternity pay
  • Gay marriage

This post should be relevant to the social policies topic within the A-level sociology families and households module, and there’s also some possible relevance to the religion module too, as some of the variations in family-policies are due to religious traditions.

International Variations in Marriage

Marriage policy seems to be the one which varies least – the majority of countries have 16 as the lowest legal age for marriage, with a few countries having set the age at 15.

There seems to be a problem (from the Western perspective) in Iran which has a policy of allowing temporary marriages – which several families use to marry off children much younger than 16 years of age.

Iran seems to be an issue!

Source: Wikipedia

International variations in Divorce Law

The Philippines remains the only country on earth where divorce is illegal

The worst affected people here are the victims of domestic violence, who are mainly female, who can only escape an abusive marriage through a legal separation, a status which prevents them from remarrying should they so wish.

Japan is also an interesting case in relation to equality, because women have to wait six months after divorce to get remarried, whereas men can get remarried immediately after a divorce.

(source)

International variations in Maternity and Paternity Pay

There is significant variation across the developed world in the number of weeks of full-time paid maternity and paternity leave new mothers and fathers are entitled to – ranging from over 80 weeks to less than 10 weeks – and in the case of the United States of America, women are entitled to no weeks of mandatory paid maternity leave at the Federal level – that’s left to individual states and employers.

NB – with 12 weeks of full maternity pay and only 2 paid weeks for paternity, the UK comes very near the bottom for its quality of state support for new parents.

Source: Unicef: Are the World’s Richest Countries Family Friendly?

International variations in Gay Marriage

30 countries allow same sex marriage

72 Countries still have laws against gay relationships

NB: The above map is taken from a blog called ’76 crimes’ – 76 must have been the number of countries where there were laws against homosexuality at the time the blog was initially set up – however now there are only 72 countries.

I guess this shows progress, it also shows you how not to name a blog!

Sources:

International Variations in Child Benefit

Most Northern European countries pay parents for having children, through ‘universal child benefit’ – parents get paid no matter what their income. Payments vary from around $2000 in France to over $8000 in Luxembourg.

The United Kingdom is one of the few countries which means-tests its child benefit, so higher income households do not get it.

Most less developed countries such as the United States have no child benefit allowance for new parents.

Source: Vox

Some Questions to consider:

  • To what extent do family policies vary from country to country?
  • Which countries have the most ‘progressive policies’? (You’ll need to say what you mean by progressive!)
  • Which countries have social policies which are the most oppressive to women and children?
  • Why do policies vary from country to country?

Paranoid Parenting

In 2001, Professor Frank Furedi wrote ‘Paranoid Parenting’, arguing that a ‘culture of fear’ pervades parenting today, with parents perceiving their children as vulnerable, and as being perpetually at risk from several threats: from strangers, traffic, toys, and from the threat of falling behind in their development.

Parenting today has become an ordeal in which parents obsess over every detail of their child’s development, one in which they try to assess the risks of every activity and try to reduce these risks through surveillance and control (preventing them from taking risks in the first place).

Parents are now reluctant to let their children do unsupervised activities, such as walking to school on their own, for fear of them being abducted by strangers, and they are scared to let them go on school trips which involve long journeys, because of fear of traffic accidents or the possibility of them having moments when they might evade adult-supervision.

When purchasing products for young children, the safety of those products is also a concern – what are the risks of the child being injured or choking when playing with a toy, for example.

Parents are not only scared for their children’s safety when they go outdoors, they are also scared when they go online -virtual spaces are perceived as places where children may be prone to pedophiles, for example.

The causes of Paranoid Parenting

The most obvious cause is the exaggeration of the extent of stranger-abductions, and anything negative which happens to children in the news.

A less obvious cause is the growth of an ‘expert culture’ which has grown up around childhood, so that now there are a multitude of child-development professionals. There is an increasing norm in which parents are expected to defer to the authority of experts, rather than find their own way to parent.

The problem is that many of these experts have contradictory and unclear advice about what good parenting looks like, hence it just increases parental confusion.

A final reason is because the increase in alienation of parents – they have less power in the world of politics and work, and their children have become the main place where they can construct their identities, project their power and their dreams onto – so they are precious indeed!

The consequences of Paranoid Parenting

The increased control and surveillance that comes with Paranoid Parenting is a reduction in the amount of opportunities for children to develop independently – thus children remain children for longer because they are not allowed the freedom to take risks and make indpenedent choices that are required for transition to adulthood.

Another consequence is that children become more afraid themselves – with the constant messages that the world is risky, they become risk averse – and more vulnerable and anxious – paranoid parents create anxious kids. They inadvertently harm them.  

Evaluating Paranoid Parenting

It’s now 20 years since Furedi wrote Paranoid Parenting, but today it seems more relevant than ever.

The video below involves an interview with Lenore Skenazy, the author of Free-Range Kids, who was dubbed ‘America’s Worst Mum’ when she let her 9 year old ride the Subway on his own, and made a video piece about it.

Note that her son had been asking to do this, and was familiar with the subway, so this was a rational ‘learning task’ for her son to do on his own!

This led to lots of TV appearances in which Lenore got demonised as the worst mum in America – she says in the interview that the TV hosts would often ask her ‘but what would you have done if he had never come back?’ and points out that this isn’t really a question, because they know how she’d feel – what they are doing is reinforcing the view that being a parent today involves going to the ‘worst case scenario’ – imagining the worst thing that could happen to your child and then concluding that they must always be under supervision, because that’s today’s norm, to be ‘Paranoid Parents’.

In the video and in this article there are several examples in the United States of the Police being called because of kids being unsupervised – in one example a teenage boy was chopping wood in his own yard with an axe, someone saw it, called the police, and they confiscated the axe, returning it to his parents.

The message is to not let your kids do anything that might help them develop as autonomous human beings, instead they should be doing ‘more homework’, and most definitely under surveillance.

Related Posts

Find out More:

Timeline of Social Policies which changed childhood

Below is a timeline of some of the social policies which changed childhood, from the early 19th century through to the present day.

Most people would adopt a ‘March of Progress view‘ and argue that these polices improved the lives of children, however there are some sociologists who see these policies as placing too many restrictions on children.

The main types of social policies which have changed children’s lives are those relating to work, education and child welfare and protection.

This post was written primarily for A-level sociology students studying the families and households module.

The 1833 Factory Act

Made it illegal for textile factories to employ children under the age of 9, and they had to provide at least twelve hours of education a week for children aged between 9-13.

The 1867 Factories Act

Made it illegal for any factory to employ children under the age of 8, and they had to provide all children aged between 8-13 with at least 10 hours of education a week.  

Thomas Barnardo also opened his first children’s home in 1867.

The 1870 Education Act

Mass Education for children aged 5-12 was introduced

This is effectively the introduction of national primary education in Britain, although it wasn’t made compulsory for all 5-12-year olds until 1880, and the quality of education could be very poor indeed in some areas until the Education Reform Act of 1944.

The 1878 Factories and Workshop Act

Banned the employment of children under 10 in Factories.

The 1880 Education Act

Schooling in Britain made compulsory for every child up to the age of 10. Local Education Authorities

1889 – The Prevention of Cruelty towards Children Act, commonly known as the Children’s Charter

This Act gave the State the right, for the first time, to intervene in relationships between parents and their children. The Police could now enter a private residence and make arrests if a child were being mistreated. 

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Towards Children (NSPCC) was established in the same year.

This policy and new institution together laid the foundation for modern child welfare, and the idea that the state could intervene if parents were not being responsible.

The 1908 Children’s Act

This established juvenile courts, so that children would be prosecuted according to different standards from adults.

It also introduced a formal register of Foster Parents, formalising the idea of State approved Foster Parents taking over from ‘removed children’ who had suffered abuse from their biological parents.

The Punishment of Incest Act was introduced in the same year – this made sexual abuse within families a matter for state intervention and punishment, previous to this the Church had been responsible for dealing with this.

1918 – School Leaving Age Raised to 14

The 1944 Education Act

While students of sociology should be familiar with this date as the year in which the Tripartite System was introduced (and students probably familiar with criticising this act!), at the time this was a huge leap forward in the rights of children.

The 1944 Education act was the first time the State really took responsibility for education at a national level, rather than leaving education to Local Education Authorities. The act saw a huge increase in funding for education funding for education and a massive building programme of new secondary modern schools.

The School Leaving Age was also raised to 15.

The 1948 Children’s Act

This established a children’s committee and a children’s officer in each local authority and represents the emergence of ‘child protection and welfare’ being a major responsibility of each Local Authority.

A series of legislation throughout the 1960s and 1970s, often in response to high profile deaths of children at the hands of their parents or foster parents, consolidated children’s social services and safeguarding strategies in Local Authority in the UK.

1973 – School Leaving Age raised to 16

1989 – The Children’s Act

Gave children the right to protection from abuse and exploitation and put child welfare at the heart of everything the Social Services did. It also reinforced the central principle that children were best looked after, wherever possible within families.

1991 – The Child Support Act

This gave children protection in the event of Divorce – it emphasised that prime concern of family courts in a Divorce should be the welfare of the children.

2003 – Every Child Matters

This was a government report following the death of Victoria Climbie

It outlined five key principles that every child should have the right to:

  • Be healthy
  • stay safe
  • enjoy and achieve
  • make a positive contribution
  • achieve economic well-being

The idea was that everyone working within children in any capacity should be ensuring these principles guided their interactions with children.

2013 – Children were required to remain in education or work with training until at least the age of 18.  

Further Legislations

The history of child labour, education and welfare legislation doesn’t stop here, there is more, but I am!

NB Safeguarding is now a big policy agenda, but to my mind it doesn’t really do anything new, it’s just refining and rebranding Every Child Matters and previous policies.

Sources used:

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Why is Divorce Declining in the UK?

The Divorce Rate in the UK has now been declining for several years, why is this?

This interesting article from the Institute for Family studies offers an explanation for why this is… (from 2018)

They analyse the divorce rate by looking at the different divorce rates by number of years a couple has been married.

One of their findings is that if a couple makes it to ten years of marriage, then they are just as likely to stay together if they got married in the 1960s, comapred to if they got married in the 2000s.

After ten years of marriage, the percentage going on to get divorced is 20%, this has been consistent over several decades.

What has declined drastically is the number of couples married less than 10 years getting divorced…

“Actual UK divorce rates among the most recent newlyweds are now down by 59% over the first three years of marriage from the peak, 47% over the first five years, and 27% over the first 10 years of marriage.”

Men: from sliders to deciders

The article points out that the high divorce rate in the 1970s-1980s among younger married couples was probably due to men going into marriage but not really being committed – that is they ‘slid’ into marriage, from social pressure, possibly encouraged into marriage due to the uncertainty of changing male roles during that period.

Meanwhile, women in the 1970s and 80s, experiencing positive gender-role changes had high expectations from men who hadn’t ‘decided’ to go into marriage.

The marriage of the two created a peak of divorces among newly married couples.

Now that there is less social pressure to get married, and cohabitation is more acceptable, men are more likely to ‘decide’ to get married rather than ‘slide’ into it, and so marriages are more likely to last the course!

This article from the Economist (2011) explains the recent decrease in divorce more broadly, and maybe more simply.

It argues there are three main reasons for the recent decrease in the divorce rate:

  • The decline in marriage (then fewer people can get divorced!)
  • The increase in house prices – so people just stay together for economic reasons.
  • The increase in immigration – immigrants are less likely to get divorced.

Related Posts

Explaining The Long Term Increase in Divorce

Shame about Single Mums

An excellent documentary about the history of single mums in the UK featuring Jamelia

This is an excellent documentary for A-level sociology students studying the families and households option.

The documentary explores the experience of being a single parent in the Victorian era, through the 1960s, into the 1990s, with the conservative championing of the married, nuclear family, and through to the the present day.

Jamelia makes an excellent host, she’s very empathetic with the women she interviews during the documentary, I guess given her experience of being a single parent, which she also talks about.

The documentary is well organised into the following general sections:

Single Mums in Victorian workhouses

It seems that this was the lot of single parents in the Victorian era – seperated from their children and both sent to workhouses. Grim!

Single Mums in the 1960s

Despite the ‘sexual liberation’ of the ‘swinging ’60s’ there was still a stigma attached to getting pregnant out of wedlock. This section features a heart-wrenching interview with a woman who got pregnant at 14 and was coerced by her parents to have her baby in a distant ‘hospital’ and immediately give it up for adoption.

The Conservative backlash against single mums in the 1990s

The documentary also explores some of the more recent moral panic over single parenting – there’s a very interesting section at the end where a statistician exposes the way stats on ‘problem children of single parents’ are reported in a misleading way.

Sources

This is just a brief summary. The documentary is from 2011 (originally it aired on BBC3), but it’s still a useful historical source, especially the section on the 1960s!

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Research on Same Sex Parenting

One obvious difference between same-sex and opposite sex couples when it comes to children is that same-sex couples don’t have the biological requirements to create their own children between them, so they have to seek alternative options.

The NHS outlines various different pathways for same-sex parents to raise children (the same options as for opposite sex couples who can’t conceive!) including using sperm donors, co-parenting, adoption and surrogacy.

Adoption is an increasingly popular option, and the number of adoptions to same-sex couples has been increasing recently, while the number to opposite sex couples has been in decline.

Same-sex adoptions, UK figures.

This means there are increasing numbers of same-sex families, relative to opposite sex families with children.

Are there differences in the way same-sex and opposite-sex families parent their children?

Psychologist Rachel Farr recently conducted a Longitudinal Study with 100 adopted families, and found no differences in outcomes of middle-aged children between same-sex and opposite-sex families. Generally, all children were well adjusted and saw being adopted as positive, irrespective of the sexuality of their parents. (Source, study from 2019.)

A 2017 Study from Australia entitle ‘The Kids are OK: it is Discrimination Not Same-Sex Parents that Harms Children‘ found that children from same-sex families have just as good outcomes as children raised in opposite-sex families, based on a review of 30 years worth of research into the topic.

By ‘outcomes’ they mean the chances of having good mental health, good educational results, not becoming a criminal etc.

This Fact Check article in The Conversation on the topic goes back further and summarises yet more research that supports the consensus that same-sex parents are as ‘good’ as opposite-sex parents. However it also reminds us that there is considerable discrimination against same-sex parents, and there are some people who will selectively publish research which seems to paint same-sex parenting in a bad light, and reminds us that we should always scrutinise such research.

This recent blog post by Marina Everri from 2016 explores the experience of being a same-sex parent in Italy, and argues that while the outcomes of children are the same, problems arise for same-sex parents and children because of discrimination from outside the family circle – in schools for example.

This much more in-depth article shows how same-sex couples in eight European countries suffer from discrimination when trying to adopt. Discrimination can be an off-putting factor which may prevent some same-sex couples from going through with adoption.

Finally, there isn’t much qualitative research on the experience of being in a same-sex family, but I did find this from Stonewall, but it’s from 2009-10!