"This River Runs Deep": Father Myths and Single Mothers in Poor America.

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Dodson, L.
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The author of this chapter suggests that attempts to encourage fathers to remain with their families do not address the economic and social reality of low-income men and single parent families. The statistics about father absence fail to calculate the number of non-resident fathers who are involved with their children but do not provide financial assistance and do not consider that residence with an abusive father is more harmful than living in a single parent household. Furthermore, the public image of low-income single mothers depicts them as unwilling to work or supervise their children and in need of the assistance of a man. This chapter describes the life stories of three low-income single mothers to demonstrate the efforts that they make to keep their children safe and provide for them. The case histories refute the stereotypes presented in the media and by political leaders who advocate reductions in welfare assistance. The women tell of their attempts to sustain their marriages and raise their children in the midst of their partners' response to stress and cultural values. Participants in a focus group of low-income single women reinforced the profile of hard working mothers and suggested that their public image is related to the complexity of the social problem and the need to blame someone for poor outcomes experienced by their children. Some women also noted that racism may influence social policies. The author concludes that policies intended to encourage men to remain with their families must address the other needs of poor families for adequate income, steady employment, and safe housing. 11 notes.

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