Disconnected Mothers and the Well-Being of Children: A Research Report

May 07, 2013 | Olivia Golden, Marla McDaniel, Pamela J. Loprest, Alexandra Stanczyk

 

 

This is a report by the Urban Institute.

Considerable research attention has been devoted to low-income mothers disconnected from both work and welfare. Studies have documented their characteristics, economic resources, barriers to employment, and movement on and off public assistance and in and out of work. This body of work has rarely highlighted disconnected mothers' roles as parents and has remained virtually silent about the experiences and well-being of their children.

Although research on disconnected mothers provides little direct measurement of outcomes for children, we have good reason to worry. The emerging picture of disconnected households reveals a substantial prevalence of known risks to children's development. Childhood poverty can have lasting effects that extend well into adolescence and even adulthood. Poor maternal mental health and low maternal education-both prevalent among disconnected families-can have a marked influence on children's cognitive, psychological, physical, and behavioral functioning.

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Considerable research attention has been devoted to low-income mothers disconnected from both work and welfare. This body of work has rarely highlighted disconnected mothers' roles as parents and has remained virtually silent about the experiences and well-being of their children. This paper synthesizes research findings to show that many of the circumstances disconnected mothers face pose major risks to children's development and potentially serious consequences for children. We describe potential interventions to help disconnected families by increasing and stabilizing family income, enhancing parenting skills, supporting children directly, and reaching out to disconnected mothers who are not citizens.

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