Single motherhood does not make women unhappy

April 22, 2014
Credit: Marty from Manitou Springs, USA. Via Wikipedia.

(Medical Xpress)—Raising a child outside of marriage poses many challenges – but does not have a negative impact on women's happiness, according to new research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

Single motherhood is often seen as a reason for a number of life adversities. Single mothers need to handle organizational and financial pressures. They also suffer from a lack of partner support, and social disapproval of bearing and rearing on their own. In this new study researchers from Umeå University, Wittgenstein Centre in Austria, Warsaw School of Economics and Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Poland, shows that it is not the arrival of a child per se that leads to a decline in ' happiness.

"Despite all of the difficulties and problems— or maybe because of them— the children are moved to the absolute center of the woman's universe and they are the brightest aspect of their lives, " says Monika Mynarska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw. "Moreover, children often give women the power to make decisions they had not been able to make before pregnancy."

Specifically, being responsible for the child's well-being helped many of the interviewed women escape unhappy or pathological relationships, and made them more cautious and demanding when getting involved with a new partner. Hence, becoming a mother might move a woman's life onto a "better track".

These findings, stemming from in-depth interviews, are further supported by the analyses of nationally representative survey in Poland, which show that the positive aspects of lone motherhood counterbalanced the negative ones.

"An arrival of a child either had no impact or even increases the happiness of the single mothers" says Anna Baranowska-Rataj, Umeå University.

The study combines insights from both in-depth interviews with mothers who gave birth while single and a large-scale panel survey that follows individuals over time for over a decade. This combination of methods allowed for exploring the possible mechanisms through which motherhood may raise or reduce happiness and – in a second step – to quantify these influences and see whether they really have impact in the whole population of single mothers.

The study is conducted in Poland, a country where the degree of acceptance of nonmarital childbearing is still relatively low and the welfare state support for lone mothers is very limited. Given these unfavorable conditions, one could expect strong negative effects of having a child on the of women who have no partners.

"All in all, we found no evidence to support the assumption that the lives of women who became single would have turned out better if they had not given birth and had not decided to raise on their own", concludes Anna Matysiak, Wittgenstein Centre.

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

More information: Does Lone Motherhood Decrease Women's Happiness? Evidence from Qualitative and Quantitative Research,

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 ...

Grandparents may worsen some moms' baby blues

April 4, 2014

Does living with grandparents ease or worsen a mothers' baby blues? The answer may depend on the mother's marital status, a new study from Duke University suggests.

Recommended for you

Study shows there's a positive side to worrying

April 27, 2017

Worry - it does a body good. And, the mind as well. A new paper by Kate Sweeny, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, argues there's an upside to worrying.

Study links cannabis use in adolescence to schizophrenia

April 26, 2017

Scientists believe that schizophrenia, a disorder caused by an imbalance in the brain's chemical reactions, is triggered by a genetic interaction with environmental factors. A new Tel Aviv University study published in Human ...


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.