State benefits fuel ‘lifestyle choice’ of lone motherhood

One in four mothers is now a lone parent, with many making a “lifestyle choice” to rely on state benefits instead of a male partner, according to a sociologist.

Geoff Dench, who revealed his findings during a presentation on family policy, said: “It seems that lone motherhood is less a result of relationship breakdown, more a lifestyle choice.

“And the existence of state benefits as a source of economic security seems to be encouraging young mothers not to bother with male resident partners.”

The research, based on the British Social Attitudes survey, revealed that the characteristics of single motherhood have changed substantially since the 1980s.

In 1986 only 15 per cent of single mothers with children under 13 described themselves as never having married or cohabited, but by 2006 this figure had surged to 57 per cent.

Mr Dench also used his presentation to call for a shift in current policies to encourage parents to remain together.

He said: “Current policies structured around helping single mothers to become self-sufficient workers are misconceived.

“What most lone mothers need and many want (and may be waiting for) is a reliable partner-breadwinner, to settle down with. It would therefore make a lot more sense for policy to concentrate on dealing with male worklessness, in order to make men marriageable again.”

Mr Dench presented his findings at a presentation, held by the Centre for Policy Studies in association with the Hera Trust, on family policies yesterday.

Last September a journalist’s investigation concluded that the Government is replacing fathers as single mothers depend on benefits to bring up their children.

Harriet Sergeant spent nine months exploring the world of Britain’s most disadvantaged youngsters and produced a report on her findings.

Her report contends that single motherhood is encouraged by the promise of benefits and rent-free accommodation.

As part of the study she interviewed a drug dealer on a Peckham housing estate who has five children by different mothers.

When asked why the women became pregnant by a man they barely knew, he said: “Women get money from the Government; men get eradicated.

“What do you need a man for? The Government has taken our place.”

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