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The concerns and coping behaviours of the single mother with a child ages six months to eight years Anderson, Joan Madge

Abstract

This study was designed to elicit information about the concerns and coping behaviours of the unmarried mother. A convenient sample of 20 unmarried mothers was interviewed, utilizing a semi-structured questionnaire. Extensive face-to-face interviews were conducted with the mothers in their homes. The data were analyzed by the use of frequency distribution tables and percentages. Pearson product-moment correlation was used to examine the association between selected variables. The findings of the study revealed that the mothers ranged from 20 to 36 years of age, with an average age of 27.1 years. Their education levels varied from Grade 7 to 12, with the majority of them reaching Grade 10, 11 or 12. Fifteen mothers had 1 child and 5 mothers had between 2 and 3 children. The average age of the children was 3 years and 4 months. Their ages ranged from 2 months to 8 years. The children under 6 months of age all had older siblings. The mothers exhibited a variety of lifestyles. Of the 20 mothers, 5 were employed full-time, and 4 were full-time students. Fourteen received financial aid through Social Assistance, and 1 mother, a full-time student, supported herself and her child on a student loan. Incomes varied among the mothers. The majority of those on welfare lived on annual incomes below $3,000. The working mothers had annual incomes ranging from approximately $4,000 to $7,500. Those mothers who derived their incomes from employment had 1 child, with only 1 mother having a child under 3 years of age. Those who derived incomes from Social Assistance had from 1 to 3 children. Ten of the 14 mothers in this group had a child or children under 3 years of age. Concerns articulated by the mothers were related to finances; childcare facilities, especially for those mothers with children under 3 years of age; housing; job training; and adequate information from agencies concerning services available to mothers on Social Assistance. In contrast to previous studies done in the United States, the mothers expressed few concerns regarding the availability of physical health care. All had access to a physician. Forty-five percent of the mothers scored high on an emotional health status scale, indicating some degree of emotional impairment. Many of those who scored high on this scale also perceived themselves as having a high number of socio-economic problems. In confirmation of this finding, Pearson product-moment correlation revealed a very high positive relationship of r = +.837 between these variables. None of the mothers with annual incomes between $4,000 to $7,500 scored high on either of these two scales. Forty-seven percent of the mothers who felt a need for consultation about a specific concern, sought professional assistance. However, many preferred to talk with friends and/or relatives about their concerns. It was only among 15 percent of the mothers that the child's father provided any emotional support. A deterrent to the use of community agencies was attributed to the mothers' lack of knowledge about available services, or their negative perception of professional workers. Of those mothers who were neither employed nor going to school, many aspired to jobs and financial security. From the findings of this study, it seemed that the mothers exhibited different methods of adapting to solo parenthood.

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