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Single With Kids: Why The Happiness Gap Is Shrinking

Single motherThe idea that single mothers — whether birthing a child out of wedlock or as survivors of a hotly contested or do it yourself divorce — are unhappy has been a popularly held notion for a number of years. And while that’s not an altogether unfair generalization, the unhappiness gap between single and married mothers is falling, according to a new report from the Journal of Happiness Studies.

John Ifcher, one of the study’s co-authors and an assistant professor of economics at Santa Clara University, believed that most single mothers are unhappy because of their relationship status. However, they’re finding more happiness thanks to a number of changes over the past 30 years.

The General Social Survey

Ifcher and co-author Homa Zarghamee, an assistant professor of economics at Barnard College, looked at the General Social Survey from 1972 to 2008 to determine their findings.

In that time span, the researchers discovered that while single moms reported being less happy than their married counterparts, the gap had narrowed since 1972.

Reasons The Gap Has Narrowed

Identifying the reasons this gap in happiness has narrowed, Ifcher and Zarghamee agreed that it could be attributed to these main factors:

  • Single moms’ happiness levels have gone up as other women have experienced decline.
  • There is less stigma associated to single motherhood in 2008 and beyond than there was in 1972. This lightening of the stigma is due mainly to a jump in single parenting and a boost in the number of women who choose to mother children alone.

One factor not mentioned could also be the rise in a woman’s ability to provide for the financial needs of her child without help from a spouse. According to our own month-end report, women file for divorce about 64 percent of the time, and in most of those cases, higher income than their spouses is a common correlation.

Our own DIY divorce site often deals with parents, who would like to file but are afraid of what it may be like for the kids and for their own happiness to try and parent without the help of another person. If you’re concerned, these latest findings present hopeful possibilities.

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