Journal of Social Policy


It's a Family Affair: Low-Income Children's Perspectives on Maternal Work

a1 Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY email:

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This article presents new empirical findings from a qualitative, longitudinal study of low-income working family life. It explores the experiences and perceptions of a group of children living in low-income, working, lone-mother households. Their accounts disclose the impact on children's everyday lives of their mothers' move into low-paid employment following a period out of the labour market. Children's accounts show that their mothers' move into work had brought significant economic and social change to their lives. How children experienced their mothers' employment and made sense of changes in family life was mediated by a range of different factors including their age, changes in income and security, changes in family time and family practices, child care, and their perceptions of maternal wellbeing. The findings also reveal that children, as active social agents, were engaged in a complex range of caring and coping strategies that endeavoured to ease some of the pressures that low-income working life could generate in their family lives. The article concludes with a discussion about the implications of the findings for policy, particularly in relation to the quality of social and economic support that lone mothers and their children receive.