Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy

The changing nature of lone parenthood and its consequences


Principal Investigator: Susan Harkness

Research Team: Paul Gregg and Marina Fernandez Saldago

Funder: ESRC

Duration: January 2013 - June 2014


Project rationale and aims

The increased number of lone-parent families is one of the most significant social trends to have occurred over the last thirty years.

There is little empirical evidence for the UK on how lone-parenthood has changed or on how the growth in lone-parenthood (to the extent that it is now a social norm) may have influenced the consequences for children growing up with a lone-parent.

The aim of this study is to fill this substantial gap in the literature, and to provide evidence which leads to a step-change in how policy makers and practitioners think about lone-parent families and their needs.

The study will focus on four inter-related research questions:

  1. Who becomes a lone-parent and what are the consequences?
  2. How long does lone-parenthood last and what is the nature of parents’ relationships before and after periods of lone-parenthood?
  3. Are lone-parents becoming more heterogeneous?
  4. How does lone-parenthood influence children’s outcomes and has this changed over time?

Our research uses two types of longitudinal data: first, the three major UK birth cohort studies (1958, 1970 and 2000) and second, panel data from the British Household Panel Survey (1991-2008) and Understanding Society (2010-2012).

Find out more about this project