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“Given that one in four children now grow up in one-parent homes and that 42% of marriages end in divorce you might expect prejudice against single parents to be a thing of the past. Yet a 2014 poll found that 75% of single parents had experienced stigma.
Indeed, Boris Johnson has recently been confronted about a column he wrote for The Spectator in 1995 which described the children of single mothers as “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”. When pressed on the comments by callers on LBC radio, Johnson said this was written before he was in politics.
It’s maybe not surprising, then, that mothers who took part in my research interviews described feeling isolated, stigmatised and frustrated with negative stereotypes.
In fact, most participants in the study said they wouldn’t tell someone they met for the first time they were a single parent, viewing it as a “label” which they automatically associate with “being judged”. Some told me about critical remarks made by relatives, colleagues or acquaintances. Others spoke of being “dropped” from their social circle after their divorce or not being invited when couple families got together for meals and outings.
Stereotyping was by far the most common symptom of stigma raised by mothers from a range of backgrounds and circumstances. Unsurprisingly, The Daily Mail and Jeremy Kyle Show were named as prime culprits for portraying “teenage mums deliberately getting pregnant so they can scrounge off the state” and “single mums who don’t know who the fathers of their children are”.”
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