This is a hand-curated selection of definitions of single-mother as they appear in the academic research. One of the most striking elements of these definitions of single-mother is the age at which children are implied to no longer be children. There is also a hidden implication that single-mothers are no longer mothers once children reach a certain age.
A single mother can be understood as (1) a divorced woman with a dependent child, (2) a mother who is the breadwinner for the family with dependent children and supports husbands who are disabled, bedridden, or even deceased, or (3) divorced women with adopted children or children born out of wedlock.(Kasuma et al., 2022: 1343)
households headed by a female and containing only the mother and their dependent children under 18 years of age(Gonzalex, 2004: 288)
mothers who are unmarried or women who are raising children without the support of a partner(Nieuwenhuis & Maldonado, 2018)
unmarried women age 55 or younger with a child under age 18 living in their household(London, 2000: 74)
nonwidowed women who co-reside with their own minor (0–17 years) children and do not have a partner residing in the same household (although they may reside with other adults, such as their own parents).(Härkönen , 2018: 37)
a woman who lives with her dependent child(ren) but without a partner in the household(Zagel & Hübgen, 2018: 175)
an adult woman living with at least one child below 15 in a private household without a partner;(Van Lancker, 2018: 244)
women who are divorced, widowed, or never married and are coresiding with at least one child under the age of 18(Shirahase & Raymo, 2014: 8)
mothers with at least one underage child living in the household without a partner(Sperlich & Maina, 2014: 2)
unmarried mothers and divorced mothers who care for one or more children in the home, without the father’s assistance(Zhang, 2023: 5)
individuals who have been raising their child or children without the paternal father being involved(Kulukjian, 2015: 16)
female adults living alone in a private household with dependent children, whereby the latter include all persons under 18 (or under 24 when economically inactive)(Van Lancker et al., 2012: 7)
those who do not live with a partner/spouse, are separated, widowed, divorced or never married, and live with their own children aged 16 or younger(Dey & Cebulla, 2023: no pagination)
women who have never been married and who are subfamily heads who live with own never married child(ren) under 18(Burkhauser et al., 2008: no pagination)
mothers who are living with at least one of their own minor children (0–17 years) and without a partner in the household. Other adults (such as her parents, siblings, etc.) could live there too, and they may have a partner living outside the household(Zagel et al., 2022: 614)
Burkhauser, R. V., Daly, M. C., Larrimore, J., & Kwok, J. (2008). The transformation in who is expected to work in the United States and how it changed the lives of single mothers and people with disabilities. Michigan Retirement Research Center Research Paper, (2008-187).
Dey, T., & Cebulla, A. (2023). Mental health of single mothers in Australia. Journal of Public Mental Health.
Gonzalez, L. (2004). Single mothers and work. Socio-economic Review, 2, 285-313.
Härkönen, J. (2018). Single-mother poverty: How much do educational differences in single motherhood matter?. In The triple bind of single-parent families (pp. 31-50). Policy Press.
Kasuma, J., Desa, S. M., Enchas, C. A., Faridah, S., & Kamaruddin, E. P. (2022). Exploring Personal Engagement of Single Mother Involvement in Business: Qualitative Study.
Kulukjian, E. L. (2015). Successful life outcomes of children raised by single mothers (Doctoral dissertation, California State University, Sacramento).
London, R. A. (2000). The dynamics of single mothers’ living arrangements. Population Research and Policy Review, 19, 73-96.
Nieuwenhuis, R. & Maldonado, L.C. (2018). The triple bind of single-parent families: Resources, employment and policies to improve wellbeing. Great Britain: Policy Press.
Shirahase, S., & Raymo, J. M. (2014). Single mothers and poverty in Japan: The role of intergenerational coresidence. Social Forces, 93(2), 545-569.
Sperlich, S., & Maina, M. N. (2014). Are single mothers’ higher smoking rates mediated by dysfunctional coping styles?. BMC women’s health, 14, 1-7.
Van Lancker, W. (2018). Does the use of reconciliation policies enable single mothers to work? A comparative examination of European countries. In The triple bind of single-parent families (pp. 239-262). Policy Press.
Van Lancker, W., Ghysels, J., & Cantillon, B. (2012). An international comparison of the impact of child benefits on poverty outcomes for single mothers.
Zagel, H., & Hübgen, S. (2018). A life-course approach to single mothers’ economic wellbeing in different welfare states. In The triple bind of single-parent families (pp. 171-194). Policy Press.
Zagel, H., Hübgen, S., & Nieuwenhuis, R. (2022). Diverging trends in single-mother poverty across Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom: Toward a comprehensive explanatory framework. Social Forces, 101(2), 606-638.
Zhang, H. (2023). Re-defining stigmatization: intersectional stigma of single mothers in Thailand. Journal of Family Studies, 29(3), 1222-1248.