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The Social Situations of Unmarried Mothers

Close, Paul (1976) The Social Situations of Unmarried Mothers. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94277) (KAR id:94277)

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The study of which this thesis is a report, was an exploration of the social situations - that is, the social relationships and social lives -of young unmarried mothers. It was inspired by an interest in the concept and nature of poverty, and although not intended as a ’poverty study', it may contribute to a solution of the problems surrounding these issues. I set out with the belief, encouraged by 'common knowledge* and supported by the writings of various social commentators, including sociologists, on the subject, that unmarried mothers in our society

are deviants and therefore stigmatized. I had gained the impression that unmarried mothers would attract widespread disapproval, censure, hostility and rejection from others, and that as a result they would suffer relatively high degrees of social isolation with the detrimental consequences that would have for their social lives. I expected that whatever their level of economic resources, say, they would probably

be 'deprived', in the sense that their social situations would be 'abnor­mal'.

However, there was a dearth of firm information which could be used to draw conclusions on these matters. Therefore I decided to investigate the social situations of young unmarried mothers with the aim of throwing some light on what these are like and why, and with this in mind I decided to carry out intensive interviews with a small sample of carefully selected young unmarried mothers and, for comparative purposes, with a similar sample of young widowed mothers. But I gradually formed the opinion as a result of, first of all, the available literature and data on the topic and, secondly, the information I began to gather during interviews, that my original ideas were perhaps largely mistaken. The possibility emerged that young unmarried mothers do not necessarily suffer high degrees of social isolation, nor abnormally restricted social Hues, and that if and when they do, it is not necessarily a result of the responses of others to their marital status. On the contrary, it appeared possible that if and when young unmarried mothers do suffer these things, it is simply because of their oun responses. Consequently, the focus of my attention shifted, and I became particu­larly interested in the nature and consequences of the meanings which unmarried mothers themselues attach to their marital status. On these grounds, coupled with the fact that I had found it impossible to locate the number of young widowed mothers I had wanted to interview, I decided to concentrate on interviews, with the unmarried mothers and on a detailed analysis of the information I would gather from a proportion of these. The following is a report of my findings, and it indicates that common knowledge and the available literature on the topic of unmarried motherhood are suspect. Of course, no firm conclusions can be drawn on the basis of my study. But it was, after all, only exploratory and it does point to possible conclusions and to hypotheses to be tested by further research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94277
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2022 12:57 UTC
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2022 12:58 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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