From the TUC

Challenging the single parent stereotypes

23 Feb 2010, by in Society & Welfare

Gingerbread, the national charity working with single parents is launching a new campaign today to ‘lose the labels’ – the stereotypes and stigma still too often attached to single parenthood.

We’ve secured a pledge from Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg to challenge prejudice against single parents in the run up to the election. We’ve also written to editors of leading newspapers and broadcasters news to ask them to do the same. We’re going to be highlighting good and bad practice on our website and asking all MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates to sign up. We hope that by highlighting the continuing distortions of the debate about single parenthood we’ll also contribute to a more sensible conversation on the issues of poverty and welfare reform.

Times have moved on since Peter Lilley MP spoke in 1992 of ‘young ladies who get pregnant just to jump the housing list’. But our members tell us they still feel stigmatised and stereotyped today, portrayed alternately as ‘scroungers’ or ‘bad mothers’ responsible for ‘broken families’. 83% say the media portray them in a negative light.

These debates distort the public perception of who single parents are. YouGov polling this month found that the average estimate of the proportion of single parents in work was 34% – the real figure is 57%. This estimate has fallen from when we asked the same question two years ago – despite a rise in the number of single parents in work. We think that it’s likely that ‘tough’ rhetoric around welfare reform has been driving these perceptions.

Estimates of teenage pregnancy are also wildly out of line with reality – MORI in 2009 found that the average public estimate of the number of girls under 16 getting pregnant was almost thirty times the actual figure.

We’re campaigning on this because single parents are angry about the way they’re portrayed. But the stereotypes also fuel bad policy. Focusing on non working parents distracts attention from tackling the fact that a third of working lone parents are still poor. And a focus on family type won’t help with family functioning, which we know makes the most difference to children.

GUEST POST: Kate Bell is Director of Policy, Advice and Communications at Gingerbread, the charity working for and with single parent families, to improve their lives. Gingerbread champion single parents’ voices and needs and provide support services.

3 Responses to Challenging the single parent stereotypes

  1. How long to wait before getting pregnant again | Parenting Help in Montana
    Feb 24th 2010, 2:38 am

    […] Challenging the single parent stereotypes | ToUChstone blog: A … […]

  2. Cari Crabtree
    Feb 24th 2010, 4:39 am

    I can’t blame all single parents for the trend of poorly-raised kids today. But the truth is that many bad kids emerge from single-parents backgrounds (especially when the parent is the mother).

    “Father absence contributes to crime and delinquency. Violent criminals are overwhelmingly males who grew up without fathers. (U.S. Census Bureau Report)”

    Unfit parents are having children, ‘good’ parenting practices are rare, marriage is not valued or respected anymore, unprotected sex practices are at a high, and the tendency of people to deal with unexpected pregnancy responsibly is rare.

    For these reasons, many social issues rise from the death of our value system. People, as a whole, find it easy to blame single parents.

    I started a blog on social responsibility and one of my topics is parenting. I am concerned about what single parenting means for modern society, so I enjoyed your post.

    This post discusses a boy’s need for a father despite his mother’s best efforts:

  3. genny jones
    Feb 24th 2010, 6:47 am

    As a single parent I welcome this campaign by Gingerbread.
    I do get fed up at times with all the stereotypes about single parents and their children and it’s about time something is done about it.

    I became a single parent 6 years ago and at the same time I became redundant, my house was going to be reposed, I had a lot of debts and my self esteem was at an all time low.

    I thank God that a friend of mine introduced me to Gingerbread. The help and support I received was fantastic. . Six years on, I managed to sort out my debts, I still have the house, and my self esteem is at an all time high.

    I work full time as an online tutor which means I can do the school run and still take my children to their various activities.

    I run part time business, and I set up a support group to help other parents with the help of Gingerbread. I also set up a project called confident children, where we run half term and holiday activities for children. Parents make a donation and we get some funding to do this.

    So their are a lot of single parents who are trying to make a difference in the life of others and doing our best to raise our chidlren the best we can.

    As a mother raising boys, i do also have male role models to help me with my children. Their is a lot of help and support avaialable and I am 100% behind this campaign