Assessing the Impact of Single Motherhood on Public Health

Recent studies show that, single mothers are likely to suffer more health complications when compared to their married counterparts. This trend is worsened by the fact that, more children are born in single families now. Studies show that today, about 40% of newly born children are born in single parent families.

This figure has increased because in the 60s, the percentage of children born in single-parent families was only 10% (Melnick 2011, p. 1). Many researchers explain that, first-time single mothers are twice as likely to develop health complications by the time they reach the age of 40 (when compared to first time mothers in marriages). As a result of this trend, there is increased concern about the impact of single motherhood on public health.

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Kristi Williams (cited in Melnick 2011) explains that, “We are soon going to have a large population of single mothers who are entering midlife, when many health problems just begin to emerge” (p. 1). Considering the above assertion, it is clear that, there is a looming public health crisis in the UK. However, the most unfortunate thing is that, not much attention is given to this impending crisis.

The relationship between single motherhood and increased health risk is not entirely clear but it is assumed that the stress of raising a child alone and the financial toll on the same task is likely to be the main reason for increased health risks among single mothers (Melnick 2011, p. 1).

The stresses associated with raising a child alone are therefore perceived to have long-term health effects on single mothers. Melnick (2011) elaborates that, “Research has clearly shown the toll that long-term stress takes on health, and we know that, single mothers have a lot of stress in their lives. Their economic problems only add to the problem” (p. 2). Due to the impending health problem facing single mothers, this study seeks to assess the impact of single motherhood on the UK public health system.

Research Questions

Is the UK public health system prepared to tackle increased healthcare needs of single mothers?
Will the impending health crisis associated with single motherhood have an impact on the well-being of children born in such families?
Are there enough healthcare personnel to meet the increased healthcare needs of single mothers?
What is the extent increased healthcare needs of single mothers in the UK have on the UK public health system?

Hypotheses

The UK public health system is not prepared to tackle the increased healthcare needs of single mothers
Increased healthcare needs of single mothers will have a negative impact on the well-being of their dependants
There are not enough healthcare personnel to tackle the increased healthcare needs of single mothers
Increased healthcare needs of single mothers will have a significant impact on the UK public health system

Literature Review

Recent research studies document that, unwed mothers are likely to suffer significant health problems when they reach their mid-age (Melnick 2011, p. 1). This finding was derived after undertaking research studies to compare the health status of single mothers and married mothers, by the time they were 40.

The negative health impact of single motherhood was noted to be irreversible. This means that, negative health was still evident even after single mothers got married later in life. E Science (2011) proposes that, the government should come in to promote marriage in the society, at least based on the evidence that, marriage promotes good health among women. This debate has however only started.

Research studies done to investigate the relationship between single motherhood and negative women health were also done in America, but they exposed some significant differences in women health if the impact of single motherhood was assessed along ethnic lines.

For instance, it was noted that, the negative health effects of single motherhood was stronger in white and black women, when compared to Hispanic women (Melnick 2011, p. 1). It was however explained that, this observation was evident because if Hispanic women have children out of wedlock, it occurs in relationships that almost resemble marriages (Melnick 2011, p. 1).

These relationships are often long-term and “cohabiting” in nature. Furthermore, it was explained that, Hispanic women live in closely knit communities and families when compared to women from other racial backgrounds. These family relationships were seen to provide support to the single mothers, and therefore, Hispanic women find it easier to cope with their situation when compared to women from other racial backgrounds.

In analyzing the impact marriages have after childbirth, it was affirmed that, marriages did very little to impact positively the negative effects of single motherhood. However, it was affirmed that, if women married the biological fathers of their children, they were likely to experience some reprieve in this regard (Melnick 2011, p. 1).

From this observation, it was noted that, women who staid married to the biological fathers of their children (for a long time), experienced improved health by the time they were 40 (Melnick 2011, p. 1). The opposite was however observed for women who did not have a partner at age 40.

Studies have also shown that, black women are more likely to suffer the negative health effects of single motherhood because they are more likely to be single mothers than women from other racial backgrounds (Melnick 2011, p. 1). This observation was supported by the fact that, black women were more likely to have children out of wedlock when compared to white Hispanic women.

The greatest impact of negative health was therefore observed to be strongest among black mothers. Since studies already affirm that, marriage provides financial and emotional support to women, it is noted that, black women are disadvantaged on both fronts (Melnick 2011, p. 1).

This observation was evidenced because black women were observed to marry men from poor socio-economic backgrounds when compared women from white or Hispanic backgrounds. The reason for this observation was that, black women were tolerant to men coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds because decades of poverty decreased the likelihood of finding marriageable men (Melnick 2011, p. 1).

Research Methodology

This research study will be qualitative in nature. Semi-structured interviews will be used as the main research approach. However, the research will first be done by asking unstructured questions to gain background information about the research topic.

It is estimated that, about 30 interviews will be done in 30 public health hospitals across the UK to gather information about the level of preparedness of public institutions (with regards to the healthcare needs of single mothers). These interviews will be qualitative interviews. The interviews will be recorded in tapes and used as documentation evidence for the study. These tapes will act as tools for data analysis because they will be recorded as computer files.

These documents will contain information obtained from field studies. The ethnographer will be used to analyze the data by categorizing them into various groups. The ethnographer is a computer software built to use a coding system that analyzes data in different groups (using number and letters) (Distance SYR 2011).

The sample population group consists of health experts and public institutions. Health experts will provide insight into the health effects of single motherhood (when analyzed over long periods). Moreover, they will explain the relationship that, women health effects (associated with single motherhood) have on the public health sector. Administrators of public health institutions will give information regarding the level of preparedness of the UK health sector to the impending burden of increased healthcare needs of single mothers.

The main ethical concern in this study is obtaining consent form research participants when taking part in the study. Consent will be obtained freely. Confidentiality issues will also surface as part of the ethical issues to be considered in the study.

To ensure the confidentiality of information given, the researcher and the participants will have to sign a confidentiality document stipulating that all information obtained from the participants will strictly be used for purposes of the study alone. Moreover, the names of the participants will not be disclosed during the research.

Conclusion

An assessment of the impact of single motherhood on the UK public health system is an important social and medical issue that needs to be addressed.

This research study seeks to undertake this research and recommend areas of policy improvement that needs to be done before the full impact of increased healthcare needs of single motherhood is felt in the public health sector. The findings of this study will therefore be used to improve the level of preparedness of the UK public health system in meeting increased healthcare needs of single mothers.

References

Distance SYR. (2011) Time between: the Full-Time Adult Undergraduate. (Online). Available at: http://www-distance.syr.edu/qualproposal.html (Accessed 23 July 2011).

E Science. (2011) Single moms entering midlife may lead to public health crisis (Online) Available at: http://esciencenews.com/articles/2011/06/02/single.moms.entering.midlife.may.lead.public.health.crisis(Accessed 23 July 2011).

Melnick, M. (2011) Single Moms Have Worse Health, and Getting Married Doesn’t Help (Online) Available at: http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/14/single-moms-have-worse-health-and-getting-married-doesnt-help/#ixzz1SvdXCGIG (Accessed 23 July 2011).

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