Noncustodial Mothers Following Divorce

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Historically women have been responsible for pro- viding the primary care of their children. This notion of responsi- bility for the care and well-being of children is central to the definition of motherhood. When mothers relinquish custody of their children prior to their 18th birthday, they elicit suspicions of deviance and nonnormality. There are an estimated 500,000 to 1,200,000 noncustodial mothers in the United States, with approxi- mately 75% being voluntary relinquishers. This chapter identifies, through a review of the social science literature on maternal noncustody and examination of a specific study, the broad range of reasons for becoming a noncustodial mother, as well as provides a clearer picture of the noncustodial mother-child relationship pursuant to relinquishment. An overall theme from the literature was a general societal disapproval regarding maternal custody relinquishment, which in the study described, negatively affected respondents self- perceptions. This study describes the social situation of women who voluntarily gave up custody of one or more biological children. Retrospective data identifying the factors influencing custody relinquishment and the events leading up to giving up custody are examined. Relationships between noncustodial mothers and their children are ex-plored pursuant to relinquishment, as well as the extent to which mothers regretted giving up their children. A sample of 130 noncustodial mothers responded to a 137-item life history questionnaire and three clinical assessment scales. One- hundred-and-two of the participants engaged in two- to five-hour interviews. Findings revealed that approximately 86% of the respon- dents cited multiple reasons for custody relinquishment. Financial considerations, emotional problems, threats of legal custody fights, and being in a destructive relationship with mate emerged as the most frequently reported reasons for giving up one’s children. The reasons for relinquishment as well as how the decision was handled with children had the greatest impact on the mother-child relation- ship. Almost 97% of the mothers actively maintained relationships with children following relinquishment. Seventy percent of those sampled were satisfied with their decision to relinquish in retrospect. Finally, recommendations for policy and practice were discussed. Agency and legal policies and procedures should reflect a sensitivity to conditions under which most mothers relinquish their minor chil- dren, especially a supportive national family policy. The provision of a child or family allowance, compulsory court-based mediation, and a more uniform state-to-state support enforcement are recom- mended. Practitioners need to employ contextually-specific interac- tions for noncustodial mothers and their families, as high anxiety may characterize the emotions of this variable type of single parent. Professionals interacting with potential noncustodial mothers should provide for them to make a more informed and less pressured deci- sion regarding relinquishment.

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... Despite the rise in single parenthood, single fathers remain perhaps the least understood group of parents (Herrerias, 1995). In 2010, there were about 1.8 million single fathers in the United States, and about 15% of single parents were men (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011a). ...
... Measures of the characteristics, experiences, and attitudes of mothers who relinquish custody are generally derived from small studies focused on divorced non-custodial mothers of older children (Greif & Pabst, 1988;Herrerias, 1995;Hilton et al., 2001). Many assume that when fathers relinquish custody, they are simply following the expected path (Gersick, 1979;Goldscheider & Kaufman, 2006;Hanson, Bronstein, & Cowan, 1988). ...
... Parenthood is much more difficult in the absence of adequate financial and social resources. Mothers' inability to provide financial security is a frequently reported reason that fathers obtain custody of their children (Bemiller, 2008;Herrerias, 1995). Greater economic resources should help fathers enact the single parent role (Grall, 2009;Hilton et al., 2001). ...
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Using a longitudinal sample of 4,010 mothers and fathers from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we examine factors that predict whether children are living with both parents, only their mother, or only their father when the child is 3 years old. We considered parental characteristics and resources and couple\family-level characteristics and found that although many factors increased the odds of parents living together—including the financial resources of each parent, having a supportive relationship, and having a disability-free child—even more factors disproportionately increased the likelihood of either single fatherhood or single motherhood, including parents’ multiple-partner fertility and depression, mother’s drug use, and mother’s greater alcohol use. Our findings suggest that although most children living with a single parent live with their mothers, they are more likely to do so if their fathers exhibit problem behaviors, and more likely to live with their father if their mothers do so.
... Often women do not obtain primary physical custody despite having provided the primary parenting for their children. There is no question that mothers continue to be the primary parents of their children (Aldous, Muligan, & Bjarnason, 1998; Coltrane, 1996; Cowdery & Knudson-Martin, 2005; Herrerías, 1995; Zimmerman, Haddock, Ziemba, & Rust, 2001), and are regarded as experts in the care of their offspring (Cowdery & Knudson-Martin, 2005; Glenn, 1994). However, while early attachment affects emotional and social understanding in later years as it relates to secure attachment (Kelly & Ward, 2002), it appears that this information is not considered in the court's decision-making. ...
... The social characteristics of the study participants are not relatively different than those found by other researchers of noncustodial mothers. The mean age of participants fell within the mean ages of other studies that ranged from 34.7 to 38.9 years (Fischer & Cardea, 1981; Greif & Pabst, 1988; Herrerías, 1995; Pagano, 2000; Paskowicz, 1982). The marital status of the participants in the present study is consistent with Herrerías' (1995) study with the exception of the differences in the percentages of married and divorced, which were inverted. ...
... The current sample of noncustodial mothers is the most racially and ethnically diverse to date with 16.2% comprising women of color. An earlier study by this researcher included 12.3% women of color (Herrerías, 1995). Alternately, Chesler's (1987) study was 94% Caucasian, while Greif and Pabst's (1988) sample was 97% Caucasian. ...
This article presents data on noncustodial mothers who perceive they have faced a number of social inequities. Moreover, this paper identifies the reasons mothers are no longer living with their children, children’s current living arrangements, the dollar amount of child support awards, the actual dollar amount of child support payments being made, and the rate of compliance with those payments.
... Noncustodial mothers, although few in number, are most likely to suffer mentally, both because of the relative rarity of this situation and the circumstances that often surround it (e.g. initial mental health problems, financial problems etc.) (Herrerias, 1994). Of course, custody of children is increasingly being shared between divorced and separated parents, and to different degrees. ...
... Having nonresident children had a significant negative effect on mental health, but only for women. It is rarer for mothers not to live with their children, and there is a social stigma associated with it (Herrerias, 1994) (note that this category includes nonresident children who live in institutions, and who live on their own; 11% of respondents in our sample have at least one nonresident child living on his/her own). ...
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This study used longitudinal data from the UK National Child Development Study (N = 5844) to examine whether mental health measured at age 42 was associated with living in a stepfamily. Accounting for the potential selection of those with mental health problems at the onset of family formation (at age 23) into, or out of, stepfamilies we show that stepparents, their partners and particularly those in dual stepparent families all had worse mental health than parents in 'first families'. It was also found that the mental health of men was worse if they were a stepparent than if they were the partner of a stepparent, while the reverse was the case for women.
... Yet, the centrality of financial resources in women's lives for children's living arrangements is revealed in the literature on noncustodial mothers in divorce situations (Arditti & Madden-Derdich, 1993). Among samples of divorced women who voluntarily relinquished custody of one or more biological children, financial factors emerged among the most common reasons for this decision (Herrerias, 1995). Thus, financial factors have emerged in the literature as influencing women's decisions regarding the living arrangements of their children. ...
... This finding further adds to our understanding of gendered influences in imprisonment research with current work highlighting the salience of relationships with women for incarcerated men's lives and relationships with children (Comfort, 2008;Edin et al., 2004;Nurse, 2004). That income is influential on children's living arrangements during maternal imprisonment in particular is consistent with literature on voluntary custody arrangements among divorced mothers (Arditti & Madden-Derdich, 1993;Herrerias, 1995). Consistent with the need for gender-responsive policies in the criminal justice system (Bloom, Owen, & Covington, 2004), disparities in income levels prior to imprisonment need to be considered further in understanding children's living arrangements when mothers are incarcerated. ...
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Children of fathers are found to be more likely to live with their other parent during incarceration than are children of mothers in a state sample. Although patterns are similar for men across race and ethnicity, patterns differ among women: children of non-Hispanic White women are more likely to live with their other parent than are children of African American and Hispanic mothers. Among mothers, income levels explain racial and ethnic differences in the odds of living with the other parent during imprisonment. If race and ethnic disparities in income were reduced, disruption in child living arrangements during imprisonment may be minimized.
... The vast majority of NC mothers voluntarily relinquish their children, either at the time of the divorce or subsequently, believing that it is in their children's best interest. Most cite multiple reasons for this decision, although financial considerations top the list (Greif, 1987;Herrerias, 1995). ...
... Differences may also be attributable to interactions between cultural definitions of good mothering versus good fathering and factors specific to divorce. Motherhood, by definition, entails nurturing (Herrerias, 1995). Psychoanalytic theorists view the emotional bond between mother and child as unique, noninterchangeable, and critical to healthy child development. ...
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Caucasian stepchildren (aged 10-18) in the Nonshared Environment and Adolescent Development (NEAD) project rated noncustodial (NC) parents' socioemotional involvement. Stepfamilies had been together at least 5 years. Adolescents with NC mothers (n = 56) reported more phone calls, mail, overnight visits, and social support than adolescents with NC fathers (n = 143). The association between perceived social support and adolescent adjustment was compared for NC mothers versus NC fathers by using structural equation modeling; the association was stronger for NC mothers. No effects for sex of child or interactions of sex of child/sex of NC parent were obtained. NC fathers might increase their influence in adolescents' lives by behaving more like NC mothers (more frequent phone calls, overnights, etc.).
... In contrast to stepmother-child closeness, stepmother involvement may not foster mother-child relationships. The negative association between stepmother involvement and mother-child closeness may be at least partially related to circumstances that result in mothers becoming noncustodial parents, such as financial difficulties, emotional problems, and substance abuse (Herrerías, 1995(Herrerías, , 2008. These factors may limit the mother's ability to form a close relationship with the child, and stepmothers may become more involved in the absence of a close mother-child relationship. ...
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Stepfamily relationships remain important over the life course to both children and parents. Unfortunately, limitations in availability of longitudinal data that include useful measures of stepfamily relations remain, thereby scholars must rely mostly on cross-sectional examinations. As a way to more rigorously test some of the mixed cross-sectional findings related to the links among stepcouple stability and parent–adult child relationships (closeness, involvement) for three parent–child subsystems (mother–child, father–child, stepparent–child), we used an alternative modeling strategy to test three plausible models. Multiple group analyses also were used to compare associations for stepmother and stepfather families. Stepfamilies (N = 330) from the National Survey of Families and Households with data from both adult children and primary respondents (resident parent or stepparent) were included. All three models fit the data. The best-fitting model suggests the most probable order of association is that parental involvement is associated with parent–child closeness which, in turn, is associated with stepcouple stability. Results also suggest that multiple parent–child relationships and stepcouple relationship stability are generally positively linked for both stepmother and stepfather households, although some differences emerged. Taken together, findings underscore the influence of cross-household stepfamily relationships even when children are adults.
... For example, stepchildren tend to have stronger bonds with resident stepparents than with nonresident stepparents, and being a stepparent is often more difficult for stepmothers than for stepfathers (Ganong et al., 2011). Children who live with fathers after parental separation are a more selective group (Herrerias, 1995), and children sometimes live in these arrangements as a result of difficulties experienced by biological mothers (e.g., financial, employment, or emotional difficulties; difficulty in handling the children). Most cohabiting relationships either transition to marriages or dissolve within a few years of forming, with different implications for children's well-being (Cherlin, 2014). ...
This study draws on nationally representative data from Waves I and III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to prospectively examine the factors associated with different patterns of closeness between stepchildren and their stepfathers over the transition to adulthood in stably married stepfamilies (N = 881). Results indicate much variability in how these relationships unfold over time, although a sizable minority of youth remained close to their stepfathers. Consistent with family systems theory, the quality of other family relationships is particularly important to understanding children's relationships with stepfathers as they develop over time.
... Nonetheless, the psychological and economic pressures of single parenting may affect their parental behavior. The literature suggests that while most divorced mothers continue to carry out their parental functions much as they had before their divorce, some mothers may redirect their energies into rebuilding their personal lives, while others may become more invested in their children (Arditti, 1999;Herrerias, 1995). ...
The paper presents a typology of co-parental relationships of divorced couples, based on an empirical examination of the quality of the co-parental relationship, the parental functioning of each parent, and the parents' means of conflict resolution (compromise, attack) in a sample of 50 divorced couples. Similar to previous typologies, three types of co-parental relationships are identified: cooperative, parallel, and conflictual. In addition, variables relating to the divorce process and to the parents' personalities were also examined, and found to have significant associations with the three types.
... A review of the fledgling literature that is specific to non-resident motherhood shows a distinction between situations where mothers lose custody and those where mothers relinquish custody voluntarily (Arditti and Madden-Derdich, 1993; Herrerias,1995; Greif and Pabst,1988). This study builds upon previous work by developing a typology of four different 'types' of non-resident mother experience. ...
Over the last few years, researchers have paid increasing attention to post‐divorce parenthood. To date, attention has been almost entirely focused upon non‐resident fathers. This paper considers post‐divorce parenting from the perspective of non‐resident mothers. Drawing upon findings from a narrative research study investigating 20 women's subjective experience of non‐resident motherhood, this paper highlights some of the major themes. These themes are the mother's perceived degree of choice regarding child residence, the extent to which they accept the idea of role reversal and whether they are satisfied with their level of involvement in the lives of their non‐resident children. In light of the slow but steady increase in the numbers of non‐resident mothers, it is suggested that a wider context of discussion is needed in order to incorporate the significance of parent's gender within post‐divorce parenting scholarship and debate.
... It is possible that the low level of monitoring found among single fathers might at least to some extent reflect selection effects. Even though fathers gain custody of their children for a number of reasons, it is not uncommon that this is due to particular disadvantaged situations (e.g., the mother has psychological problems or there is strong mother-child or mother-father conflict; Buchanan et al., 1992;Herrerías, 1995;Kielty, 2006;Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992). Problems with monitoring might thus partly be due to problematic behaviors among these adolescents already being established before their residence in the single-father household (Buchanan et al., 1992). ...
This study focuses on how specific parent–child relationship variables may function as mediators of the association between two postdivorce family structures and antisocial behavior and substance use. Five parent–child relationship variables (mother/father–child conflict, parental monitoring, and mother/father–child closeness) were tested as potential mediators of the relationship between living in a single-mother or single-father household and the outcome variables in a sample of 4,117 students with modal ages of 11 to 15 years. The applied multimediating path approach proved to be a useful method for identification of the relative importance of the included mediators. As hypothesized, there was a clear tendency for mother–child conflict and parental monitoring to be the most potent mediators between residing in a divorced single-mother household and the adolescents' antisocial behavior and substance use. In the single-father household, on the other hand, only parental monitoring was a clear mediator.
... Greif and Kristall (1993) explored differences between noncustodial mothers and fathers, finding the psychological adjustment of mothers to be more problematic, and that the way mothers explained their situation to others was different, with lying, evasion, avoidance, and changing the subject being common reactions to questions about their children. Herrerias (1995) studied 130 voluntarily relinquishing mothers and found that many would deny that they had children, often using an avoidance strategy on the subject of children. Finally, Mayer (1997) compared 57 custodial with 42 noncustodial mothers, finding that although psychological adjustment and self-esteem did not differ between the two groups, noncustodial mothers were significantly more dissatisfied and distressed regarding their relationships with their children, with few if any sources of support in this regard. ...
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This qualitative study utilizing narrative analysis and grounded theory examines the history and experiences of 14 Canadian women who have lost custody of their children within a legal divorce process. Each woman's storied experience focused on themes of attachment and loss associated with involuntary child absence, legal abuse within the adversarial system, and judgment based on nonconformity to a motherhood ideal; physical violence and emotional abuse in the family system; access denial and parental alienation; stigma and lack of support services; and serious financial losses. Women's perceptions of their children's needs in the divorce process, mothers' responsibilities in relation to those needs, and the responsibility of social institutions to support mothers as parents were also examined. The study sought mothers' views about needed changes to the legal framework of child custody determination and other priorities. Implications for socio-legal policy are discussed, including a consideration of a rebuttable legal shared parental responsibility presumption as facilitating the most salutary postdivorce outcomes for women and children, as are guidelines for direct service provision.
... To isolate the associations between role inoccupancy and health, this research takes into account several control variables in multivariate analyses. The literature on non-custodial mothers has found that socioeconomic factors are associated with not living with their children (Arditti and Madden-Derdich 1993;Herrerias 1995) and that socioeconomic status is also protective on health (Mirowsky and Ross 2003). The present research will take into account inmate parents' levels of education. ...
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This article elaborates research on parenthood, gender, and health by considering the context of incarceration using the stress process paradigm. The chronic strain of non-participation in a desired role, or “role inoccupancy,” in the form of non-resident parenthood on arrest is associated with psychological distress at time of lockup among women but not men, indicating a gendered strain. However, for both incarcerated men and women, anticipated resident parent role inoccupancy upon release (or expectations not to live with their minor children) is generically associated with current subjective mental health problems net of distress prior to lockup. Role inoccupancy strains are further associated with subjective physical health problems among women but not men, indicating more pervasive associations among the former.
... " To offer a brief example, in the family research study I conducted on the personal and cultural implications of women who are attempting to mother their chil-dren in absentia, the first-person narratives I collected from women provided a wide spectrum of noncustodial experiences (Eicher–Catt, 1997). Although prior research on these women offered clues about their psychological states (see, e.g., Clumpus, 1996; Coysh, Johnston, Tschann, Wallterstein, & Kline, 1989; Fischer & Cardea, 1982; Herrerias, 1995; Koehler, 1982; Stewart, 1999 ), demographic characteristics (Greif, 1987; Grief & Pabst, 1988; Zuravin & Greif, 1989), or the social ills precipitated by their diminished social status (Glubka, 1983; McMurray, 1992; Mungen, 1986; West & Kissman, 1991; Wilbur & Wilbur, 1988), no investigations attempted to move beyond a statistical, descriptive, first-order or positivistic level of analysis. Therefore, as a communicologist, I am motivated by a goal to further our understanding of this unique sign condition of motherhood rather than attempting to explain causal connections as to why they are noncustodial or predict future behavior as a visiting parent. ...
In this article I argue for advancing family communication scholarship by incorporating more methodologies like communicology, which reflect human science systems of inquiry. Foremost, communicology offers a paradigm exemplar of the methodological integration of semiotic and phenomenological theory. We find that communicology is one among a number of emerging postmodern perspectives, like narratology and performance theory, for example, which effectively combines both interpretive and critical research agendas. Approaches like communicology show promise for future research aimed at critically examining the world of the family in its inherent concreteness, emotionality, and subjectivity.
... Grandparents generally take over the primary care of their grandchildren as a result of the mother's financial problems, long work hours, emotional problems, drug and alcohol abuse, incarceration, and illness (Thomson, Minkler, & Driver, 1997). In fact, regardless of the children's living arrangements, nonresident mothers are often assumed to be " unfit " parents whether or not this is the case (Herrerias, 1995). The situation of these children's fathers is often unknown and may be similar. ...
One third of all children in the United States have a nonresident parent. On the basis of 13,085 children with a nonresident parent drawn from the 1997 National Survey of America's Families, this study examines nonresident mothers' and fathers' involvement (visitation and child support) with children who reside in different household types: single-parent families, married and cohabiting stepfamilies, and families headed by grandparents, other relatives, or nonrelatives. The relationship between children's living arrangements and nonresident parent involvement is complex and depends on both the gender of the nonresident parent and the type of involvement. Because nonresident parent involvement is low regardless of household type, policies and programs designed to increase involvement should include children in a variety of family forms.
This paper enriches understandings of the implications of contemporary custody law for mothers and their children. It does so through a discussion of mothers’ grief and emotional pain over involuntarily losing care time with children. Mothers involuntarily lose care time by becoming non-resident parents against their will or by having a shared care parenting order imposed on them. Both experiences of losing maternal care time are becoming more commonplace as a result of the gender neutrality of custody laws across the Anglo-West and the increased emphasis given to shared care parenting as a viable post-separation parenting arrangement. Yet investigations into the emotions engendered by mothers’ loss of care time are sparse. Exploratory qualitative research with twelve mothers who involuntarily lost care time reveals the intensity and durability of their grief, its entanglement with emotions like fear, and its significance, as a relational welfare approach emphasises, to children’s best interests.
When couples divorce, custody battles regarding children may ensue. Whilst the majority of children reside with their mother post divorce there are a significant number of fathers who are sole parents living with dependent children. This literature review considers the research evidence from studies published since 1992 in order to highlight the challenges and presenting problems non-resident mothers may experience when accessing therapy. The reasons surrounding their non-resident status together with the difficulties they may encounter in attempting to retain contact are discussed. Suggestions for how counsellors may be able to work effectively with this group of women are made.
The Australian Commonwealth Government is about to initiate widespread changes to family law. Central to the reform proposals is the introduction of Family Relationship Centres (FRCs), as alternatives to current adversarial approaches to settling family separation. This discussion paper raises two issues in relation to the forthcoming reforms. Firstly, within community debates, nonresidential (noncustodial) mothers are typically subsumed under nonresidential (noncustodial) parents, often without recognition of their particular needs, as nonresidential mothers.1 The article draws attention to the social stigma nonresidential mothers suffer and its implications for the reform process. Secondly, we include both nonresidential mothers and nonresidential fathers in a critique of the lack of educational initiatives by educational research and schools to involve nonresidential parents in their children’s schooling. We believe that in the spirit of the forthcoming reforms, schools need to reach out to all parents. This means that school personnel (school psychologists, social workers) need to be available to families and consultants during negotiations within the proposed FRCs, to assist both nonresidential mothers and fathers in securing school involvement.
Mothers who live apart from their children are often mistreated and misunderstood. Clinicians are increasingly called upon to treat this growing population. The author describes some of the key issues facing these mothers: money and child support, visitation, relations with the father, relations with the child, court involvement, and the impact of the social system. Suggestions for assisting them in a therapeutic relationship are offered.
Understanding the experience of parents without custody after divorce is important in terms of facilitating their adjustment and positive relationships with their children. Ninety-two noncustodial parents divorced within the previous 5 years completed a structured questionnaire. We examined differences between noncustodial fathers and mothers in terms of the frequency of the contact and the relationship satisfaction with children. In addition, using the regression model, we analyzed the effects of several characteristics of noncustodial parents, including gender, on the frequency of contact as well as the relationship satisfaction with children. The main results of the study are as follows. First, noncustodial fathers and mothers exhibited similar low levels of contact by phone and in-person visits. Second, noncustodial parents with a child older than 8 years old visited the child more frequently, and were more satisfied than noncustodial parents with younger children. Third, the level of desire to gain the child custody had a significant effect on the frequency of contact and the satisfaction of the relationship between the noncustodial parents and their children. Fourth, noncustodial parents with more positive feeling about their former spouse contacted more frequently with the children. Fifth, compared with noncustodial fathers, noncustodial mothers demonstrated a higher relationship satisfaction with their children.
Despite their increasing numbers, divorced families with a noncustodial mother and a custodial father have received scant research attention. Our study attempts to provide some initial insight into the economic status of these families. Examining the child support obligation, we find that noncustodial mothers face a much smaller award than noncustodial fathers, both in terms of the absolute dollar amount of the award and as a percentage of the obligor's income. This potential inequity, however, is offset by the fact that—despite the relatively lower child support obligation—noncustodial mothers experience a larger decline in their standard of living than do custodial fathers and their children. Thus although previous research has found that custodial mothers bear the brunt of familial dissolution, this conclusion does not apply to custodial fathers. Rather, mothers—regardless of custodial status—fare more poorly than fathers.
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The authors used ecological theory to disentangle the effects of gender, family structure, and role responsibilities on parenting and children's behavior in single-parent and intact families. Data were gathered from parents and a focal child in 30 single-mother, 30 single-father, and 30 intact families. The Parent Perception Inventory (PPI) and Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) were used to evaluate how positive and negative behaviors of parents and internalizing and externalizing behaviors of the children differed across the three family structures. Significant differences were found between single-parent and intact families for both parenting and children's behavior. The researchers determined that role responsibilities and family structure are more important than gender in explaining parenting and child behavior following divorce.
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One hundred and sixty six unmarried college students from continuously intact families, terminated parental cohabiting unions, and divorced homes participated in the current study. Participants from terminated parental cohabitating unions and parental divorced homes differed in their experience with parental absence. Differences were also found across all three groups for dating behaviors and relationship attitudes. Participants from cohabiting unions were the youngest at their first crush, had more dating partners, more cohabiting relationships, more of a desire to end their current relationship, more posi-tive attitudes about cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births, and more negative attitudes regarding marriage than the other two groups. Regression analyses were used to explain the dating behaviors and relationship attitudes of participants from terminated parental cohabiting unions and divorced homes with the model being more predictive of subjects from cohabiting unions. Family structures in the United States are changing dramatically. Not only are there intact family structures (i.e., continuously married parents; Vangelisti, 2004) but now there are also single parent families (i.e., head-ed by an unmarried or separated mother or father), di-vorced families (i.e., couples who have obtained a legal dissolution of their marriage; American Heritage Dic-tionary of the English Language, 2000), step-families (i.e., reconstituted families; one biological parent who has remarried to a step-parent and children), as well as cohabiting families (i.e., two people living together in a sexual relationship when not legally married; American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000). The act of cohabiting has been identified in several dif-ferent ways in recent literature, ranging from a prelude to marriage, a stage within the marriage process, and an alternative to marriage (Heuveline & Timberlake, 2004; Vangelists, 2004). For the purposes of the cur-rent study, cohabitation was defined as two people liv-ing together as in a married relationship who conceived children while in the relationship. Cohabitation itself is becoming more common in American society. During the last thirty years there has been in increase in cohabitation prior to marriage as well as cohabitation as an alternative to marriage (Han-sen, Moum, & Shapiro, 2007). According to the Na-tional Institute of Health (2002), half of women in their thirties in 1995 had lived with an intimate sexual part-ner at some time outside of marriage. Also, between 1990 and 1994, more than half of all first marriages began with partner cohabitation (National Institute of Health, 2002). Previous research is limited in terms of the experi-ence of parental cohabitation for children. It has been estimated that children born to cohabiting parents will spend of their childhood in a single-parent household, another with parental cohabitation, and about of their childhood with married parents (National Institute of Health, 2002). It has been suggested that the experi-ence of parental cohabitation can be detrimental for the children involved (Artis, 2007; Brown, 2004). Previ-ous research has found that children from cohabiting families score lower on cognitive tests, exhibit less self control (Artis, 2007), demonstrate more behavioral and emotional problems, and report less school engagement (Brown, 2004) than children from intact families. Little research, however, has examined the consequences of terminated parental cohabiting unions (i.e., cohabiting relationship between biological parents that has dis-solved in a similar fashion as obtaining a dissolution of
Using data from the 1980 to 2003 panels of the Consumer Expenditure Survey, this article examines purchasing decisions in father-headed single-parent families. Single-father expenditures are compared to both married-parent expenditures and single-mother expenditures on 17 broad categories of household-level goods and services. Multivariate analysis finds that single fathers' consumption choices differ from bundles within married-parent households and single-mother households. Compared to married parents, single fathers spend more on food away from home, alcohol, and tobacco products and spend less on publications, toys, and children's education. Single fathers differ from single mothers by spending more on food away from home, alcohol, and tobacco products and less on books and children's education.
Drawing upon interview data from a study investigating the experiences of 20 non-resident mothers in the UK, this article explores the narratives of two participants, one who volunteered to become the non-resident parent and one who lost residence against her will. The central focus of the article is concerned with participants' discursive management of their atypical situation. Specific attention is paid to the different ways in which these women presented their situations and how they positioned themselves in relation to dominant cultural scripts surrounding motherhood. It is argued that non-resident mothers are at risk of isolation as a consequence of social stigma and this may pose barriers to their taking a full and active part in the lives of their children. Suggestions are made whereby social workers might play a useful role in facilitating and supporting non-resident mothers within their locality. The issues raised have relevance for other western jurisdictions operating within a framework of gender-neutral family policy because, the number of non-resident mothers can be expected to rise in line with high family breakdown and divorce rates.
Although a substantial number of mothers do not have physical custody of their minor children, little research has been conducted on this population. In qualitative studies, non-custodial mothers often report being stigmatized. The current study compared perceptions of mothers without custody to those of mothers with custody as well as toward fathers with and without custody. It was expected that non-custodial mothers would be evaluated more negatively than custodial mothers and more negatively than fathers, with or without custody. Based on exploratory hypotheses, it also was expected that non-custodial mothers would be especially stigmatized when the non-custodial child was young or female. None of the hypotheses was supported. The only significant finding was that non-custodial parents were evaluated more negatively than custodial parents.
In an attempt to discover how noncustodial mothers cope with the highly stressful situation of living apart from their children, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a culturally diverse group of 26 noncustodial mothers. While a majority of the women reported clinically significant levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms on the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25, all were functioning adequately in social and occupational or academic domains. In addition, they were engaged in a wide variety of coping strategies as measured by the COPE scale (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989). The findings suggest that despite the psychological distress and pain associated with being a noncustodial mother, these women were coping well and had much to offer other women in similar circumstances.
Using data from the 1987-1988 National Survey of Families and Households, this study examines gender differences in how nonresident parents spend time with their absent children. Whereas nonresident fathers are often perceived as “Disneyland” parents, nonresident mothers are generally considered to be more involved in their children's daily lives. However, results suggest that nonresident mothers and fathers exhibit a similar pattern of participation in activities with their absent children, controlling for sociodemographic and family characteristics. Most nonresident parents either engage in only leisure activities with their children or have no contact. Only about one third of parents mention school among activities they participate in with their child. These findings indicate that nonresident parent-child interaction patterns may be the result of circumstances surrounding the nonresidential role rather than the gender of the parent.
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Nonresidential parents are in a precarious position as by definition they are outside of the family residence after divorce and hence often perceived as outside of the family system. Semi-structured qualitative telephone interviews with 36 nonresidential parents living 50 or more miles from their children revealed social and institutional systems provide both assistance and barriers to parents following divorce. The challenge of continuing with their identity and role as a parent and family member was shown through their interactions with schools, religious institutions, and work places, as well as family and friends.
Parenting after divorce is challenging under the best of circumstances. The situation is even more difficult for the nonresidential parent who lives apart from the child and can be compounded when the nonresidential parent and child live long distances from one another. This qualitative study of 36 nonresidential parents living 50 or more miles from their children reveals the challenges and strengths of parenting in this unique situation from the parents' perspective. The experiences of these parents provide parent educators, counselors, and others with information on how they can better assist families of divorce.
Using an identity model, this study examines the dynamics of the parenting relationship nonresidential mothers have with their children following divorce. It explores the effect nonresidential status has on the salience of mother identity for women who live apart from their minor children. Mothers' perceptions of their altered position in the family and the attenuating effect nonresidential status has on their ability to fulfill roles associated with motherhood are examined. Results reveal coping strategies employed by respondents to reduce dissonance in the mother identity and to overcome negative stigma associated with being a nonresidential mother. Because nonresidential motherhood is becoming more common, policy implications are included.
Notions of motherhood have been shaped by a Western ideology that encourages mothers to intensively mother their children, selflessly indulging in their child's every want and need. Failure to adhere to such criteria results in the label of “bad” mother. This understanding of motherhood has been viewed through a White, middle-class, heterosexual lens, limiting our ability to see the diversity of women's lives. In an effort to encourage exploration of women's nuanced experiences, feminist scholars have begun to explore marginalized mothers. This article adds to this research, drawing attention to noncustodial mothers. Because they do not live with their children on a full-time basis, noncustodial mothers deviate from the ideology of the “good mother,” providing an opportunity to explore the navigation of motherhood from a distance. Through qualitative interviews with 16 noncustodial mothers, strategies of resistance and accommodation of the cultural ideal emerge.
The non-custodial mother is an anomaly. She does not live with her children on a full-time basis, putting her outside of the dominant expectations associated with motherhood. Although there has been an increase in the number of non-custodial mothers in recent years, information on the experience of being a non-custodial mother is minimal. The majority of our knowledge of non-custodial mothers stems from research conducted during the mid-1980s through the 1990s. This research was primarily descriptive in nature, lacking theoretical density. This article provides an overview of research completed on non-custodial mothers over the past two decades, with attention to the family and the role of the courts. After reviewing past research, the current state of the field is discussed, and future research directions are suggested.
Drawing upon a narrative study investigating the personal experience of 20 non-resident mothers in the UK, the paper discusses how the atypical nature of their situation poses a potential threat to women's identity at both the personal and the social level. It is argued that more constructive adjustment is linked to women's ability to maintain a positive view of themselves as a ‘good’ mother in spite of their non-resident status and that providing opportunities for women to ‘tell their story’ may be helpful in this respect. In addition to the cathartic effect of openly sharing an atypical mothering experience and defending against negative social judgements, exploring narratives can open up space, creating opportunities for new meanings and possibilities to emerge.
The term visitation rights connotes that noncutodial parents have the discretion, not the responsibility, to visit their children. This article examines the assertion that visitation rights should instead be viewed as an obligation owed by noncustodial parents to their children. Excluding circumstances in which visitation would be injurious to a child, the expectation of visitation should be enforced by the courts.
Using data on 294 adolescents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health who live with a biological father and have both a resident stepmother and a nonresident biological mother, this study examines the prevalence, antecedents, and consequences of adolescents’ closeness to each of their parents. Findings demonstrate that adolescents vary in their likelihood of having close relationships to resident fathers, resident stepmothers, and nonresident biological mothers, but when they can do so, they appear to benefit. Close relationships with both resident fathers and nonresident mothers are associated with fewer adolescent internalizing and externalizing problems. Closeness to resident stepmothers, however, is unrelated to these two outcomes. Results suggest that fathers play a particularly important role in these families.
Few researchers have studied how parents from diverse family structures cope with childhood chronic illness. We designed this study to discern the childhood cancer treatment decision-making (TDM) process in these families. Using grounded theory, we interviewed 15 custodial parents, nonresidential parents, and stepparents who had previously made a major treatment decision for their children with cancer. "Moving to place" was the central psychosocial process by which parents negotiated involvement in TDM. Parents moved toward or were moved away from involvement based on parent position in the family (custodial, nonresidential, and stepparent), prediagnosis family dynamics, and time since diagnosis. Parents used the actions of stepping up, stepping back, being pushed, and stepping away to respond to the need for TDM. Parents faced additional stressors because of their family situations, which affected the TDM process. Findings from this study provide important insight into diverse families and their unique parental TDM experiences.
This article reviews the available literature to give an overview of what is currently known about the situations and experiences of mothers who become the non-resident parent post-separation/divorce. Comparisons are made with non-resident father literature where possible in order to explore the similarities and differences in women and men’s experience of parenthood across households. The principal question explored is: to what extent do the experiences of non-resident parents relate primarily to gender, or to their status (as non-resident parent), or a combination of the two? Findings indicate that there are many similarities in women and men’s experience regarding the difficulties they each encounter when parenting at a distance. However, dominant cultural norms, which indicate that mothers should be co-resident with children, make the experience of non-resident motherhood a different psychosocial phenomenon from non-resident fatherhood. It is argued that more information is needed regarding the distinct experiences of both mothers and fathers if there is to be a more comprehensive understanding of non-residential parenting. Also, the steady rise in the number of non-resident mothers suggests a need for further investigation of parental role-reversal post-divorce parenting arrangements. Specifically how this type of arrangement impacts upon child welfare and whether this type of post-divorce parenting arrangement is acceptable to men and women as individuals and also to society in general.
This study explores the relationship between family structure and children's access to health care using data from the 2001-2003 waves of the child sample files from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey. Specifically, we investigate the extent to which family structure types predict children's utilization of preventive health care, and barriers to care. We then explore whether observed differences across family structures can be attributed to differences in demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status (SES), and child health status. Using logistic regression models, we document substantial variation in health care usage and barriers to health care across a variety of family structures. Of note is the finding that the children of single mothers demonstrate extremely different patterns of health care access than do the children of single fathers, and the importance of SES as a risk factor for diminished levels of access to health care varies by family type. SES plays a major role in mediating the relationship between access to care for children in single mother and cohabiting families (when contrasted against children in two married parent families), but less of a role for children living with stepparents, a single father, or with parents and other relatives.
This study examines the association between two sets of divorce process variables, a) initiation of and responsibility for the divorce and b) difficulty and duration of the legal procedure, and divorced spouses' co-parental relationship and parental functioning. In a random sample of 50 former couples, in Israel, findings showed that the longer and more conflictual the legal proceedings, the worse the coparental relationship in the view of both parents. They also showed that mothers' parental functioning was not significantly associated with any of the divorce variables, but fathers' were. The more responsibility the father assumed for the divorce and the more he viewed himself as the initiator, the more he fulfilled his parental functions. The findings are interpreted in the discussion, and their theoretical and practical implications considered.
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In a preliminary analysis of data from a nationally representative sample of U.S. children aged 11 to 16 in 1981, the authors examine (1) the incidence of marital disruption in children's lives; (2) the type of living arrangements children experience following a disruption; and (3) the amount of contact children maintain with the outside parent. The analysis reveals large racial differences in both the incidence and aftermath of disruption. Blacks were one-and-a-half times as likely as whites to have undergone a disruption by early adolescence; within five years of a disruption, however, only one out of eight black children, compared with four out of seven white children, were in a stepfamily. Frequent contact with the outside parent (an average of at least once a week for the past year) occurred in only 17 percent of the disrupted families irrespective of race. Provision of child support, residential propinquity of the outside parent, and the length of time since separation occurred were the most important factors in accounting for amount of contact between the outside parent and the child.
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Men are increasingly receiving custody of their children, and single-father families with children are increasing at a faster rate than even single-mother families. However, many observers still believe that there are few custodial fathers. Indeed, there are a number of myths concerning custodial fathers. We examine three data sets and determine that many of these assumptions about custodial fathers are simply not true. We argue that current child support policies should be reexamined to ensure that they follow the same principles when the custodial parent is the father as when the custodial parent is the mother.
An exploratory study of 38 runaway wives in Metropolitan Toronto yielded the finding that the decision to leave their husbands was predicted upon a long history of marital discord while the decision to leave their children behind was based on a genuine concern for the childrens' well-being. After leaving the family unit, the wives experienced feelings of relief on one hand for finally having left their marital situation while concomitantly feeling very guilty about leaving their children behind.
This article describes the successful use of the print media to obtain hard-to-reach research participants when conventional sampling strategies prove inadequate. For illustrative purposes, the process employed in recruiting a sample of 130 mothers who were voluntarily living apart from their minor children pursuant to divorce is delineated. An analysis of the gain to effort as well as methodological limitations of this strategy are also discussed.
Describes a package of 9 25-item scales for evaluating and monitoring the magnitude or intensity of a client's problem through repeated administration of the same scale. These scales are designed to assess generalized contentment, self-esteem, sexual and marital satisfaction, family and peer relations, parental attitudes toward their child, and the child's attitudes toward each of his/her parents. The psychometric characteristics of each scale are described, and instructions for use and scoring are provided. (14 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Studied noncustodial mothers using data from a self-selected national sample of women in self-help groups. The typical woman in the study was single, White, approximately 39-yrs-old, and had not had custody of 1 or more children in 4 yrs. Her annual income was 16,298 dollars, and she had completed 2 yrs of college. The child was most likely to be in the father's custody, and was more likely to be male. Questions regarding feelings about the nontraditional noncustodial role elicited a wide range of reactions. About a 3rd of the Ss were comfortable, a 3rd were uncomfortable, and a 3rd had mixed feelings about their role and relationships with their children. Having voluntarily given up custody was the strongest predictor of the mother's later comfort with her role. Results suggest that social work intervention should focus on boosting self-esteem and broadening the role definitions of these women. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Presents a gender analysis of child welfare issues and argues that the recent child-saving movement has been more costly than beneficial for women and children. Benefits include increased attention toward incest and spouse abuse, but these gains have been offset by the reconstruction of child welfare as child protection. Voluntary services have shrunk, and coercive services have expanded. Women are more likely to be investigated for child maltreatment and less likely to receive goods and services. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Following Darley's analysis of the implications for women of ascribed (e.g., motherhood) vs. achieved (e.g., career) roles, this study examined stress and coping in four areas. Seventeen women who lived apart from their children (noncustody) and fourteen women who lived with their children (custody) were interviewed. The stressfulness of the noncustody situation appeared in negative evaluations of women who do not have custody, in the difficulties of dealing with ex-husbands over custody, in the lack of support from family and sometimes friends, and in the lack of hopes for the future. Yet, mothers who lived apart from their children were as fit as mothers who lived with their children. Child custody appeared to be a fluid issue regardless of the current custody situation for both custody and noncustody mothers.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Texas at Austin, 1984. Vita. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 418-440).
Thesis (M.A.)--United States International University, San Diego Campus, 1978. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 126-130).
Thesis (Ph. D.)--California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego, 1979.
The rate of child poverty in the United States is higher now than in 1966. Children are the poorest age group and are more likely to be poor than children in other industrial economies. The level and trends in child poverty are analyzed; the major American income support policies for children, including recent reforms of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, are described; and the impact of those policies on poverty are evaluated. Alternate strategies for reducing child poverty, including an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, child support system reforms, and a medical insurance plan, are proposed. Pragmatic, administratively feasible policies exist that can substantially reduce child poverty without significant new government spending.
The psychopathology of women
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Even without children's custody, they're still mothers
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When moms don't have custody
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Motherhood begins a new chapter
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When mothers give up custody
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Is there a role for social work? Social Work
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Giving up kids lays guilt on mother: Custody reversal hard choice even when best for children
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When mothers give up custody. The Detroit News
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Who will take the children
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Women and social welfare: A feminist analysis Mothers without custody
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Mothers without custody of their children Unpublished Master's thesis, University of Missouri-Columbia The route to voluntary non-custody: How mothers decide to relinquish child custody
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