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Sociology Edition Over four in every ten children are now born outside of
marriage ­ this is five times more than in 1971.
However, nearly all of these births are jointly
registered by both parents. In most of these cases,
parents are cohabiting.
Women are also having children at a later age:
between 1971 and 2005, their average age at the birth
of their first child rose by more than three years to 27.3
years of age.
Women are also having fewer children than in the 20th
century, though the number has increased slightly in
the early 21st century. The average number of children
per woman fell from a peak of 2.95 in 1964 to a record
low of 1.63 in 2001, rising somewhat to 1.84 by 2006.
More women are remaining without any children at all:
it is predicted that a quarter of these born in 1973 will
be childless when they reach the age of 45.
Decline in stigma and More options available as
increase in cohabitation opposed to motherhood…read more

Slide 2

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Lone-parent families Stepfamilies
Lone-parent families now make up 24% of all families. One child in Stepfamilies (which are often called Reconstituted families)
account for over 10% of all families with dependant children
four lives in a lone-parent family.
across Britain.
In 86% of stepfamilies, at least one child is from the women's
· Over 90% of these families are headed by lone mothers.
previous relationship, while there in 11% there is at least one
· Until the early 1990s, divorced women were the biggest group of child from the man's previous relationship. In 3% of
lone mothers. From the early 1990s, single (never married) stepfamilies there are children from both partner's
women became the biggest group of lone mothers. relationships.
· A child living with a lone parent is more than twice as likely to be
in poverty as a child living with two parents. Ferri and Smith found that stepfamilies are very similar to first
families in all major respects, and that the involvement of
Many lone-parent families are female-headed because the mothers are single by choice. stepparents in childcare and childrearing is a positive one. However,
They may not wish to cohabit or marry, or they may wish to limit the father's involvement they found that in general stepfamilies are at a greater risk of
with the child. Renvoize found that professional women were able to support their child poverty.
without the father's involvement. However, according the Allan and Crow, stepfamilies may face
particular problems of divided loyalties and issues such as contact
As Cashmore found, some working-class mothers with less earning power chose to live on with the non-resident parent can cause tensions.
welfare benefits without a partner, often because they had experienced abuse. Feminist
Ribbens McCarthy conclude that there is diversity among these
ideas, and greater opportunities for women, may also have encouraged an increase in the
number of never-married lone mothers.
families and so we should speak of `stepfamilies' plural rather than
`the stepfamily'.
New Right think Charles Murray sees the growth of lone-parent families as resulting from
an over-generous welfare state providing benefits for unmarried mothers and their children.
He argues that people have children without being to provide for them.
Women tend to be suited to
Increase in divorce and the `expressive' role, and the
separation and increase fact that the court usually
in number of never- gives custody of children to
Stepfamilies are formed when lone parents
married women. their mothers. ­ less likely to form new partnerships, so the factors More likely to remain with mother and are
causing an increase in the number of lone more likely from the women's previous
be the male. parents, such as divorce and separation are relationship.
responsible.…read more


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