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JLeslie's avatar

Do you prefer the term Single Mothers over Divorced Mother?

Asked by JLeslie (47507 points ) July 14th, 2009

I recently saw some shows with Ann Coulter as a guest, and she was talking about a lot of research she had done on single-motherhood and that the children of single mothers statistically don’t do as well as other children. I’m not sure of all of the parameters by which she measured the success of these children. Anyway, the hosts of the shows barely let her get in a word in edgewise. They got all over her, defensive, telling her examples of successful people who were raised by their mother, and angry that she is blaming mothers, etc. Ann, was finally able to say, that single mothers are not the same as divorced mothers or widowed mothers, it is mothers who have babies outside of marriage. She said the statistics for divorced moms are very similar to those of children with married parents. Every divorce mom I know does a trip on themselves about how they might have damaged the kids, maybe it would be good to know these statistics, but Ann Coulter is so ridiculous and extreme most of the time, no one wants to give her a second to talk. Generally, she is difficult for me to listen to also.

This got me thinking…would divorced moms actually prefer to be called divorced mothers rather than single mothers? Or, do they dislike the idea of labeling themselves divorced?

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28 Answers

marinelife's avatar

It is really not an option. Divorced mothers and single mothers are not the same thing.

If Ann Coulter said anything that made sense it was an accident. I think everything she says is suspect.

Blondesjon's avatar

Why do we all have to be pigeonholed into these neat little categories? What cosmic filing cabinet requires this?

If you are a good mother I have a feeling your kids will turn out just fine, regardless of what any talking head thinks.

basp's avatar

How about just calling them ‘mothers’.

cak's avatar

I was a divorced mother, now I am remarried. I preferred not to be referred to as a label. Frankly, I was just a mom raising a kid, without a husband. No biggie. No label necessary. I was a mom then and am the same now…MOM, mother….something along those lines clears up any mystery.

Ann Coulter…blah.

basp's avatar

I also agree with Marina….if Couoter said anything that made sense it was probably by accident.
I can hardly believe she ‘couldn’t get a word in edgewise’. I’ve seenher steamroll her hosts like they were nothing.

JLeslie's avatar

It is many times the moms themselves that say it, to try and communicate how difficult their situation is.

@basp not sure if you know me, I am liberal, atheist, for gay marriage, etc. Ann Coulter is not usually my cup of tea.

Personally, I am fine with just mother, mom, mommy, ma, mama.

Jack79's avatar

I think “divorced” sounds bad because it makes you wonder what went wrong with the marriage, when in fact what you’re trying to describe is the word “mother”. For me “single mother” is a general term which covers any reason why the person may be single. She could be divorced, separated, widowed or never married in the first place. Maybe she even bought the sperm and never even met the father.

Similarly, I think of myself as “single” rather than “divorced” (and technically speaking my divorce hasn’t come out yet anyway).

As to the reasons why children do badly, I expect the statistics do have a point, though I wouldn’t put the blame solely on the mother. If anything, they try harder. Their big mistake is usually keeping the dad out of the picture to start with.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jack79 I don’t think she is blaming the mothers. I think her goal is to discourage people who are unmarried from having children.

Jack79's avatar

Well that’s a whole different issue. I know people who’d make great parents, even on their own (actually I know some who’d make better parents on their own than with a partner). And others who are completely crap at parenting. Yes, having two people does at least in theory reduce the possibility of enormous mistakes, and, let’s face it, two people can take care of 2,3 or even 4 children a lot easier than one person can take care of one child. Been there, done that. But unfortunately you can’t make rules about these things, and there’s no way you can tell a person in advance whether they’d be able to be a good parent on their own.

My only problem with this is that some women take such decisions far too lightly, especially in countries where they’re bound to get income support from the state. Having a child without a father becomes a hobby, like joining a dance class. And you don’t have to think of the consequences, because you’ll just dump it on the state, if not your parents. But again, that doesn’t mean that women who are really ready to embrace motherhood should not be allowed to do so.

basp's avatar

I understand, jleslie.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jack79 justw ant to make sure I am communicating well…you mention two people is easier in theory if there are 2,3, or even 4 children. But remember, Ann is saying those 4 children are going to fare just as well even if they are only living with a single parent.

Maybe it is a statement towards teenage pregnancy and the subgroups in our society who think it is fine to have a baby unmarried without the economic means to support the child? Not sure. I just found it interesting that when people are quoting statistics of single moms, we probably don’t really know how they are defining the group single mother. It’s like when they talk about the average credit card debt in America, usually they are including people who pay of their bill every month with no interest or penalties. Like I probably have $2K on my credit card right now that I don’t consider debt because I am going to pay the bill as soon as it comes, the money is in the bank, but the stats people include me as being indebted,

bezdomnaya's avatar

I think there should be a warning sign on questions that have to do with Ann Coulter because I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Jack79's avatar

@JLeslie I was referring solely to the practical side of bringing up children. I’ve often had to take care of several children on my own (and it always depends on the children whether I cope or not). And of course I’ve had to take care of my daughter on my own for most of her life under varying circumstances.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the question doesn’t apply to the fluther crowd I guess, because it looks like none of you use the term single mother.

marinelife's avatar

@JLeslie It’s sort of an academic term, isn’t it?

SuperMouse's avatar

I’ll go with Mom. While I am no longer married to the father of my children, he is still very much their parent and very much involved in their upbringing. While I have primary physical custody, we have joint legal custody and he has them quite often. Therefore I’m not really a “single mother” although I am divorced. My point is that I agree with @blondesjon and @basp, there is really no need to label anyone.

DrBill's avatar

Divorced Mother, was married
Single Mother, has never married

Blondesjon's avatar

@DrBill . . .But we all know what the both of them did do.

cak's avatar

You know, this question has stuck with me, for some reason. At no point has my daughter ever called me, “Divorced Mom.” It’s never been, “Divorced Mom, now Remarried Mom,” either.

Yep. I’ll still stick with label free.

YARNLADY's avatar

I always thought single mom referred to any mother (never married, divorced, or widowed) who was raising a child alone. It never even occured to me that there was any difference.

CMaz's avatar

Once Divorced you are single.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t really know Ann Coulter, but if the way you talk about her is correct, she’s some kind of conservative. You may not like this, but on this one, there is plenty of research showing that children of single moms don’t do as well. Just think about it. Single moms usually have less education, they have less income, they have fewer books and all the other things that are predictors of success. Of course, they lack one of the greatest predictors of success—father’s education. There are no fathers very much in the picture.

Another point that she could have made, if they let her talk, is that all their individual cases of children of single moms doing well do not change the average result for children of single moms. We can all think of individual cases that contradict any statement about statistical averages. It is a sign of a poor understanding of statistics when people argue from individual cases.

It is interesting that children of divorced moms do as well as kids with two parents. As I suggested, there are many factors that predict success of children; one of which is education of father. It could be that when you control for father’s education (or other predictors), the difference between single moms and divorced moms’ children may disappear.

Perhaps divorced mothers, on average, have more resources than single moms. Or they, on average, live in better school districts, or who knows.

As to the label—I think I’ll let people label themselves. In terms of statistics and studies, we’re just labeling a variable, not a person or a group of people.

JLeslie's avatar

@daloon I have friends, and I hear moms, who use the label single mom, and they get very defensive or internalize and feel like shit when they here the type of stats you mentioned regarding single moms. None of my friends were single when they had their babies, so I thought it would be comforting for them to know they don’t have to feel like they are swimming upstream when it comes to the success of their kid. That when they hear these statistics they need to know what group “they” are really talking about, because the sociologist doing the study might define single mother differently than my girlfriend. So my question for divorced moms, originally, was to find out if now you know that you are not included in that group who might be judged (looked down upon to be clear) when it comes to parenting, do you want to change how you identify yourself. BUT, no one on fluther identifies themselves that way…so the question was for naught.

Your stats on the education of the father is a new way for me to look at it for me, very interesting. I would gather that the less educated the more likely you are to not be married to the babies mother. Sooo, does that mean that even if there is a cultural shift and these less educated fathers do marry and stay with their babies mother, will the stats get better for these kids, or do they stay the same, because of the education level of the father? There seems to be a push right now for fathers to take part in their children’s lives, Obama, Cosby, etc., but that is not the entire equation. But, now I am off on how do we fix things..and we have discussed that already on another fluther question :).

I would also be interested to know if they have looked at this from a working mom perspective, because I have friends that guilt themselves on that too.

wundayatta's avatar

The problem with these correlations is that we don’t know whether the father’s education causes children’s success, and if so, how that mechanism works. All we know is that they are correlated—or rather that some studies have shown a correlation. One should always remain skeptical of studies of any kind, but they still provide information that can be valuable for policy-makers.

It’s a little depressing, because mother’s education doesn’t correlate with children’s success like father’s education does. Who knows what’s going on there? And you can’t change a child’s parents, nor their relationship, so how do you implement a policy to take advantage of this knowledge? I don’t really know enough about all the research to begin to have an idea about what to do.

JLeslie's avatar

@daloon Hmmm…but isn’t the mothers education likely to be the same or lower than the father? At least for the last 100 years. The generation beginning to have children now this wil probably be different, but in the past I would think more men were educated than women. So maybe the study you saw was saying even if the mother has zero higher education the children do as well as mothers with education, as long as the fathers have the same education, see what I mean?

Every study you hear, you always have to question how it was done, the sample used, etc.

wundayatta's avatar

Nope. If the mother had a higher education than the father, you’d think that would predict a child’s success in school. But no. The father’s education has a stronger correlation. Go figure.

filmfann's avatar

Ann Coulter is pure evil, and anything she says must be regarded as self serving.
She is the lowest form of scum, and I look forward to pissing on her grave.
And I won’t mind waiting in what will surely be a long line.

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