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Why Single-Parent Families Are in a Triple Bind

A new book argues that single parents face a triple bind: inadequate resources, inequitable employment opportunities, and policies that not only don’t support them, but that also sometimes make their situations worse.

The Triple Bind of Single-Parent Families is co-edited by Laurie Maldonado, a former research associate at the Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality at The Graduate Center and now a professor at Medgar Evers College, and Rense Nieuwenhuis from the Swedish Institute for Social Research. Policy experts from around the world contributed to the book, discussing the challenges single parents face and the policies that support them.

“For a single mom, her days are really full and exhausting, she’s working full time, often in two jobs, and then coming home to parent,” said Maldonado. “The employment, in many cases, is low wage, and there are inadequate leave policies to support her.”

The editors contend that the triple bind is as much of a gender issue as it is a socioeconomic issue. Women face disadvantages at work, including a gender pay gap, discrimination, and being stuck in low-paying jobs. Inadequate family leave and child care policies often hit single-parent families hardest.

The U.S. is “one of the only countries out of four in the world that don’t have a federal paid leave policy,” Maldonado said in a recent interview on the podcast Off-Kilter. “We know with the research that paid leave helps all families, but for single parents, it reduces their poverty by so much.”

The book provides examples of effective policies from other countries, such as Sweden, which has family leave policies and even requires men to take leave (or the family loses the benefit). This helps reduce inequality in the workplace, as women are not the only workers taking time out of their careers to care for children.

But the editors believe that policies implemented for all families can benefit single parents, even if the policies do not specifically target them. “If you think about the triple bind, it’s really not about blaming single-parent families, it’s about putting the focus on improving employment and improving policies,” Maldonado said on the podcast. “That really gives a lot of strength to these families.”

Beyond SUM

Book Cover: 'The Triple Bind of Single-Parent Families: Resources, Employment and Policies to Improve Well-Being' edited by Rense Nieuwenhuis and Laurie C. Maldonado
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Explore This Work
The Triple Bind of Single-Parent Families
University of Chicago Press, 2018

Work By
Laurie C. Maldonado (Professor, Social Work) | Profile

Colleges and Schools
The Graduate Center

Bonus Content
The Triple Bind of Single-Parent Families  (Open Access)

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