Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Mothers Left without a Man: Poverty and Single Parenthood in China

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Abstract:  Most single-parent families in China are headed by women, and single mothers represent one of the fastest-growing groups living in poverty. Yet few studies have examined this group. This article seeks to better understand how (and why) single mothers are disadvantaged in China. Based on in-depth interviews conducted in Zhuhai, Guangzhou Province, it demonstrates that single mothers are left behind in four respects: lower income and worse economic conditions, lower employment and career development opportunities, worse physical and mental health, and poorer interpersonal relationships and less chance of remarriage. The causes of these disadvantages include Chinese family beliefs, a culture of maternal sacrifice, the traditional division of labour between men and women and social stereotypes about single mothers. The article highlights the impacts of Chinese familism culture on single mothers and advocates incorporating a gender perspective into the agenda of family policy and other relevant social policies in China.

Keywords:  China; familism culture; gender; poverty; single mothers; single parenthood; single-parent households; social policy



© Qin Li. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.