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Proportion of children living with a single mother in 17 western countries.

This study investigated patterns and periods of time children aged 0-15 have spent with a single mother, using data from the Fertility and Family Surveys of 17 western and eastern European countries, the USA, New Zealand and Canada.

The estimated proportion of children living with a single mother for some period of time range from about one in ten children in Italy (10.9%) to the highest in New Zealand and the US, where the mothers of about half of all children (49.0% and 51.3% respectively) will spend some time as single mothers. Six other countries, Sweden, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Latvia, have single parenting rates of over 30%. With the exception of Switzerland and Sweden, these rates are gradually rising. In the US and New Zealand a child can expect to spend over five years living with their mother but not their father. The equivalent figure in Austria, Latvia and Germany is nearly four years and in Spain and Italy around one year. This does not necessarily mean they are living with only their mother as their mother may have found another partner.

The two routes to having a single parent are being born to a single mother and the separation of parents; the latter route is the more important. In all the countries studied, married parents are two to four times less likely to separate than cohabiting parents. However, married couples in the US are more likely to separate than cohabiting couples in Sweden. Thus, variations between countries reflect social pressures on single mothers to marry, the acceptability of divorce and cohabitation, and rates of remarriage. Nevertheless, the overall trend is that childrearing in western countries is increasingly being shifted to single mothers. (1)

(1.) Heaveline P, Timberlake JM, Furstenberg FF Jr. Shifting childrearing to single mothers: results from 17 Western countries. Population and Development Review 2003;29(1):47-71.
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Title Annotation:Round up: research
Publication:Reproductive Health Matters
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:May 1, 2004
Words:316
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