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The Diversity of State Benefit Dependent Lone Mothers: the Use of Type Categories As an Analytical Tool



This article provides an empirical examination of how lone mothers who receive state benefits in Germany and Britain create meaning with regards to mothering and state dependency. It uses the concept of individualisation as it requires women to negotiate their own lives. But the concept of individualisation is limited as it insinuates a convergence in men's and women's work identities and aspirations and is in danger of reducing women's identity to their 'family-work' preferences that does not encompass the complexity of their lives. The article has both a methodological claim and a substantive claim: Methodologically, it explores how new type categories can be used as an analytical tool to help us understand how lone mothers create meaning and to make sense of the differences between the mothers' complex identities. Substantively, these type categories demonstrate that there are great variations and dynamics in mothers' identities despite their state dependency. Based on lone mothers' perceived choices and constraints they are categorised as pioneers, copers or strugglers. The pioneers view their situation as an opportunity to construct their lives actively in non-traditional ways. In contrast, the coper and the struggler types perceive a lack of choices and tend to have traditional gender role values. While copers view their situation as temporary and improvable, strugglers feel overwhelmed by constraints and perceive themselves to have no choices at all. This article discusses the construction and the characteristics of these categories while detailed case studies bring each type category to life and give them more substance. The data analysis also shows that besides values, lone mothers' structural background as well as the number and age of their children seems to be related to lone mothers' creation of meaning.

Suggested Citation

  • Martina Klett-Davies, 2005. "The Diversity of State Benefit Dependent Lone Mothers: the Use of Type Categories As an Analytical Tool," Sociological Research Online, Sociological Research Online, vol. 10(1), pages 1-1.
  • Handle: RePEc:sro:srosro:2004-17-3

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