UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Recidivism in unmarried mothers; problems of the social work approach McCrae, Helen Dalrymple


The accompanying thesis, written as part of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Social Work, and entitled "Recidivism in Unmarried Mothers: Problems of the Social Work Approach", is designed to make the general public conscious of the part it should play in the prevention and treatment of unmarried motherhood. It is taken as axiomatic that unmarried motherhood, in our culture, is but one presenting facet of a girl's disturbed personality. Social Casework with the unmarried mother is seen to be all the more important, because, if the personality difficulties of the mother are unresolved or heightened by unmarried parenthood, they can tend to produce a repetition of the experience which led to the first pregnancy. The degree of the unmarried mother's intelligence, and the time of her referral to the social agency, are seen as the critical factors which determine whether or not the caseworker is able to form a constructive relationship with her. With this in mind, cases of recidivists known to the Vancouver Children's Aid Society during the year 1946 are examined, with particular reference to (1) the intelligence of the girls concerned, and (2) whether or not they were referred to the agency before, or after the birth of the child. The conclusion is reached that in practice, the degree of the unmarried mother's intelligence Is not the major issue facing the social worker, but that the difficulty lies basically in the weakness of her actual contact with the mother. This weakness is shown to be due to a number of factors: delayed referral; "peculiar personality" of the unmarried mother; emphasis on early establishment of paternity; pressure of work, and lack of psychiatric consultation. It is pointed out that the public, while it has come a long way in modifying its citsorious attitude to illegitimacy, has not yet achieved full understanding of its implications. The resources in the community for the treatment and rehabilitation of the unmarried mother are definitely limited, and at present, the social agency is bearing the full weight of the problem. Various suggestions are made as to the ways and means of remedying the situation. The experience with unmarried mothers on which this study is based, has been obtained primarily while the writer was employed as a social worker for the British Columbia Provincial Field Service. It has been done with full awareness of its deficiencies, and it is hoped that this study will foreshadow further ones which will add the specialized experience of the private agencies to the knowledge which one worker has gained from the more general field of a public agency.

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