Since 1984 policy makers have increasingly turned their attention to reforming the childsupport system. Despite this attention, the child support system has often failed to increase theeconomic security of single-parent families. This article sythesizes findings from recent qualitative studies to explain why the child support system "breaks down" for so many low-income families. This research suggests that parents often prefer informal arrangements of support and do not comply with child support regulations they perceive to be unfair, counterproductive, or punitive. It also suggests that economic and social constraints many parents face make it difficult for them to comply with existing policy, even when they desire to do so. In light of these findings, the authors consider the likely efficacy and unintended effects of various policy reforms. (Author abstract).
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