Lone mothers in employment: Seeking rational solutions to role strain

Eileen Spencer, Eileen Spencer-Dawe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The UK has the highest proportion of lone mother families in Europe and yet lone mothers in the UK are less likely to be in employment than their European counterparts. The government has introduced a number of policy initiatives to encourage lone mothers into work. These initiatives are based on a model of economic rationality which includes giving advice, providing taxation subsidies and increasing child care provision. A legal framework for the provision of leave for family emergencies is provided by the Employment Relations Act 1999. These are considered to be adequate supports to enable lone mothers to combine employment with parenting. However, as sole carers and providers, they remain vulnerable to experiencing conflicts between work and family. This qualitative and longitudinal study of the experiences of lone mothers in employment explores the management of work-family conflict within the context of Goode's rational theory of role strain and examines the adequacy of leave provision for family emergencies. The ability of lone mothers to find rational solutions to role strain is evaluated and the implications of the findings for the government's lone parent employment agenda are considered. © 2005 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-264
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • Employment relations Act 1999
  • Family emergencies
  • Lone mothers
  • New deal for lone parents
  • Role strain theory
  • Work-family conflict


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