Single mothers most at risk of poor mental health

December 16, 2013 by Ilka Pelzer, University of Otago

Single parents tend to have poorer mental health than partnered parents, with single mothers particularly at risk, new research from the University of Otago Wellington (UOW) shows.

The study of nearly 4,860 partnered and 905 single showed single fared considerably worse than single fathers in terms – 16% of single mothers and 9% of single fathers reported high or very high levels of psychological distress. This compared with 6 % of partnered mothers and 4% of partnered fathers.

Lead researcher and UOW Dean Professor Sunny Collings says the most striking gender difference potentially relevant in explaining the poorer mental health of single mothers were having a pre-school age child, being unemployed, and socio-economic deprivation.

The research team found that having a pre-school age child was twice as common among single mothers than single fathers, and single fathers were more likely than single mothers to be in paid employment, she says.

"Furthermore, while a much higher proportion of single parents experience socio-economic deprivation compared with partnered parents, things tend to be worse for single mothers – our study showed 43% of single mothers experiencing high deprivation compared to 23% for single fathers."

Professor Collings says the significant gender differences in the mental health of single parents is an issue that can no longer be ignored.

A high level public policy approach to address the socio-economic deprivation experienced by female- headed single-parent families, both in and out of work, is needed, she says.

"New Zealand's social welfare system has not prioritised mental health, let along single mothers living in poor socioeconomic circumstances.

"Policymakers need to include good mental health, alongside paid employment, as a desirable outcome for single parent families.

This is particularly important in light of the evidence of the link between poor parental mental health and that of their children, Professor Collings says.

She notes that while single fathers are at less than , the research shows they're still at greater risk than partnered parents.

With the proportion of families headed by a single father increasing, it's important to recognise their mental health needs are met too, particularly as men are less likely than women to seek mental health care. Twelve per cent of single parent families in the study were headed by .

The research has just been published in the online journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Explore further: Kids of single moms who later marry reap few benefits

Related Stories

Kids of single moms who later marry reap few benefits

October 11, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—With roughly four in 10 of all U.S. births now to unwed mothers, a new longitudinal study by Cornell demographers is the first to show that being raised in a single-parent home poses significant risks to ...

First time parenting a positive experience for mental health, researchers find

January 22, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Becoming a parent for the first time may improve mental health and reduce levels of psychological distress, according to a new study from the University of Otago, Wellington (UOW).

Black men raised by single parent prone to high blood pressure

December 2, 2013
(HealthDay)—Black men who were raised in single-parent households have higher blood pressure than those who spent at least part of their childhood in a two-parent home, according to a new study.

Incarceration has no effect on nonresident fathers' parenting

December 11, 2013
A prison sentence may not always have negative consequences for children of the incarcerated, says University of California, Irvine sociologist Kristin Turney. In a new study, she finds that when an uninvolved dad spends ...

Research highlights the value of fathers in both neurobiology and behavior of offspring

December 4, 2013
Even with today's technology, it still takes both a male and a female to make a baby. But is it important for both parents to raise that child? Many studies have outlined the value of a mother, but few have clearly defined ...

Recommended for you

Study listens in on speech development in early childhood

January 15, 2018
If you've ever listened in on two toddlers at play, you might have wondered how much of their babbling might get lost in translation. A new study from the University of Toronto provides surprising insights into how much children ...

Study suggests people dislike you more for humblebragging than for regular boasting

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers from Harvard University and UNC-Chapel Hill has conducted a study regarding humblebragging—in which a person boasts about an achievement but tries to make it sound less boastful by minimizing it—and ...

Can writing your 'to-do's' help you to doze? Study suggests jotting down tasks can speed the trip to dreamland

January 11, 2018
Writing a "to-do" list at bedtime may aid in falling asleep, according to a Baylor University study. Research compared sleep patterns of participants who took five minutes to write down upcoming duties versus participants ...

Study identifies brain circuit controlling social behavior

January 11, 2018
A new study by researchers at Roche in Basel, Switzerland has identified a key brain region of the neural circuit that controls social behavior. Increasing the activity of this region, called the habenula, led to social problems ...

Tamper-resistant oxycodone tablets have no impact on overall opioid use

January 11, 2018
The introduction of tamper-resistant opioid tablets does not have an effect on rates of opioid use or harms at a population level, according to a new study led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW ...

Suicides by drugs in U.S. are undercounted, new study suggests

January 11, 2018
The rate of suicides by drug intoxication in the United States may be vastly underreported and misclassified, according to a new study co-written by Mark Kaplan, professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

freethinking
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2013
How did this study make it though the Progressive media censors?

I thought the Progressive Media had no issues with single motherhood.....

So here we have it again, marriage with traditional mother + traditional father = best for children

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.