Considerable research attention has been devoted to low-income mothers disconnected from both work and welfare. Studies have documented their characteristics, economic resources, barriers to employment, and movement on and off public assistance and in and out of work. This body of work has rarely highlighted disconnected mothers’ roles as parents and has remained virtually silent about the experiences and well-being of their children.
Although research on disconnected mothers provides little direct measurement of outcomes for children, we have good reason to worry. The emerging picture of disconnected households reveals a substantial prevalence of known risks to children’s development. Childhood poverty can have lasting effects that extend well into adolescence and even adulthood. Poor maternal mental health and low maternal education—both prevalent among disconnected families—can have a marked influence on children’s cognitive, psychological, physical, and behavioral functioning.
This paper presents research findings on the major risks to children’s development, the prevalence of those risks among disconnected families, and the potential consequences for children. We also describe potential interventions to help disconnected families by increasing and stabilizing family income, enhancing parenting skills, supporting children directly, and reaching out to disconnected mothers who are not citizens. Finally, we offer directions for future research.
Source: The Urban Institute