Lone parent’s social exclusion


Megha Patel


HLST 1011: Foundations of Health Studies II: Health on the FrontLines

Adrienne Shnier

TA: Adrienne Shnier

November 27 2014

Following the instructions from the TA on my first assignment, I wishto change the topic and write a new assignment that addresses socialseclusion on a particularly population. This new topic will help meproduce a less descriptive paper that provides arguments andcounterarguments regarding the application of social exclusion to aparticular population.


Social exclusion is a thorn that needs to be uprooted from thesociety at all costs for communities to thrive.


This form of exclusion emanates from the society when a particulargroup is excluded from accessing rights as others following societalrules like class differences (high/low), socioeconomic status, incomelevel, education level, inadequate social service access or lack ofemployment leading to a low lifestyle. Most people who suffer fromsocial exclusion are disadvantaged and alienated from accessingcertain rights like being part of the economic, legal and socialprocesses. According to Wilson et al. (2007), it is sad to note thatsingle parents cannot access social amenities like health or medicalservices due to their status. Social exclusion is an epidemic thatautomatically categorizes people in ranks and is a result of societalrules. The society can thus deal with social exclusion throughbreaking regulations that classify people and help promote equity andaccessibility of resources to all people fairly.

Social exclusion is an issue that undermines human dignity in sonumerous ways with its effects being felt in many populations. Theimpact of social seclusion affects the most sensitive aspects of thecommunity including the health sector.

To understand the application of social exclusion, this paper willdiscuss exclusion on a particular population. Lone parents form alarge population in the world today. They have been subject to socialexclusion to the most basic needs including health. Their choice orreasons leading to single parenthood does not excuse them from socialexclusion. They have experienced many challenges dealing with issueslike accessing social amenities and bringing up their children. Newchallenges continue to emerge for them daily. Arguments andcounterarguments will be used to explain the exclusion of loneparents in this essay through several factors.

Literature review

Evidence across Europe reveals that household structures arechanging and evolving daily. They are no longer the family that usedto comprise of a mother, father and children. Indeed, research hasrevealed that contemporary societies have less people marrying andthose married end up at their later stages as divorced, widowed orseparated. Cohabitation and out of wedlock births are on the risedespite the overall decreasing fertility rates. These changes haveled to a marked proportion of lone parent families, worse economicconditions and a significant change in the group composition. Themassive economic changes have not spared either families and neitherhave the structural characteristics that have evolved with time. Loneparents have a greater challenge dealing with household provision orearning decent income. They depend on welfare payments for the mostbasic needs. A good number of lone parents face unemployment and areat a risk of poverty and consequently social exclusion.

The European commission carried out research on lone parents since2001 with the aim of developing a national plan that will help dealwith social inclusion in the most basic ways. Their research came upwith interesting findings and revealed that growing up in lonefamilies is associated to major risks like social exclusion on themost basic needs like

  • health access,

  • housing,

  • education,

  • employment and income (GSDRC, 2007).

Lacking this basic needs in lone parent households was more commonthan families that had both parents argues EC (2007).Failing to dealwith this issues has long term effects on the family and generationlines of children brought up in single parents households. Thesechildren stand a greater chance of lacking the basic needs that theirparents lacked leading to transmission of poverty as adults and totheir children as well. According to Gingrich (2008), they too areprone to social exclusion in the future unless the cycle is broken.

Health access

Unlike the families, which have a father and a mother, singleparents are likely to struggle more while accessing basic needs likemedical care for their children. Research reveals that lone parentsstruggle with so many factors and earning income is one of thosefactors. The lack of income for them means inability to access healthcare. When their children become ill, it is unlikely for them to goto the best hospitals for treatment. If taken to the best hospitals,other problems like medical bills amassing make it impossible fordischarging of children from the hospitals after treatment. Incasesingle parents fall ill and are rushed to the hospital childrensuffer immensely with no one to take care of them or help them pay upthe bills. Moreover, accessing the costly drugs from the hospitals isalmost impossible. As a result, children and parents from singleparent households are at a greater risk of succumbing to illness ifthey fall sick. They stand a greater mortality rate too due toinsufficient funds to cater for medical treatment and services. Somehospitals and health care facilities also exclude single parents fromtheir medical programs as they feel that single parents are not wellable to put up with their health packages. Social exclusion on healthaccess for lone parents is a sad reality that cannot be overlookedanymore. It needs immediate solutions to help save lives and ensureequity prevails on all families regardless of their status.


Housing is a basic need for any household to grow and livecomfortably. However, with social exclusion and economic deprivation,it becomes very hard for lone parents to secure decent shelter fortheir children. Most lone parents have been overrepresented in groupfamilies living in privately rent houses. Data collected from Europerevealed that there is an over representation of lone parents inevery tenant with the exception of lone fathers in Spain and Irelandwidows. Lone parents have easier access to free rent housing withsome of the housing policies offsetting a small part of the economicdisadvantage for them. Public housing policies only had a significantimpact on lone parents in countries with traditionally strong housingpolicies though not originally conceived for them (Thin, 2011). Theywere only given as a priority in the UK, for example. To some extent,an important quota of lone parents had access to public housing incountries like Germany and Portugal while it was 15% lower in othercountries (EC, 2007). It becomes extremely challenging for singleparents town a house without sustainable income or employment.


Social exclusion for lone parents who were educated or not educatedvaried almost to some extent. The only advantage that educated loneparents had is their ability to make better informed choices andsecure professions that will help them raise their childrencomfortably. Lone parents with lower levels of educations sufferedmore exclusion as compared to those with higher education arguesGowlett (2010). They did not get jobs and thus have less access tobasic needs or providing for their children better livelihoods. Loneparents are more likely to have challenges educating their childrenin a society that secludes single parenthood. The educationaldisadvantage affects lone parent families and varies depending on theroute to single parenthood. Gowlett (2010) revealed that widows areat a much higher risk of low education than married mothers are butthis is much attenuated when controlling for age.

The educational disadvantage of divorced mothers is on the contraryincreased when considering age compositions and the fact that divorceis a more democratic phenomenon argues EC (2007). In Netherlands andUK, most divorced women have higher levels of education that widowsor married mothers. Less educated mothers and fathers endure abusiverelationships due to lack of employment resulting from lower levelsof education. Given empowerment and education such women or men wouldrather stay single and endure social exclusion rather than tolerateprovision from abusive spouses. Today’s society is slowly warmingup to single parent families as a larger proportion of women and menwho have fallen out of marriages settle for lone parent families.According to Erulkar &amp Ferede (2009), greater risks of lowerlevels of education were noted in single unmarried mothers resultingfrom teenage pregnancies.

Employment and income

The second part of the 20th century experienced massivesocioeconomic changes of western European societies (Carr&amp Chen,2004). As a result, of the great changes in the labor market thefamily model was forced to adapt to another structure that did notsolely include the stable, homogenous male breadwinner family model.Instead, more pluralistic and diversified family forms such as singleparent families replaced the family model. Despite these changesemployment, income and lab our market participation of single parentsvaries greatly from that of married parents. According to EC (2007),lone parents have a harder time accessing jobs and employment inthese tough economic times. Single parents struggle more than marriedparents while seeking employment and maintaining it. Most employersmay socially exclude them due to their status or overlook theirqualifications just because they have children and are not marriedargues Smith (1997). However, given the opportunity, lone parentswork harder than married parents as they have to be meet bothparental roles. Their needs are more and giving them a chance to workmeans earning their livelihood. Case studies from the thirteencountries revealed that higher unemployment rates for lone parentswere evident as compared to married mothers. Widowed mothers had fewhigher unemployment rates than married mothers in countries like (UK,Ireland and Italy).

They were advantaged due to early recognition and coverage risks oftheir spouses thus getting quite generous welfare provision leadingto their deactivation from the labor market. Most divorced motherswith low levels of education as compared to married mothers were lesslikely to secure employment. In countries like Spain and Italy wheredivorce is more frequent, the higher social classes are notassociated with educational disadvantage. UK and Norway hadinteresting facts of social rights leading to some employmentopportunities. Single unmarried mothers had the highest unemploymentbut had a higher activity rate than that of married mothers with anexception of (UK, Ireland Norway). The rate of unemployment for loneparent fathers is also higher than that of married mothers in UK,Netherlands and Ireland. However, most of them have higher educationlevels than single mothers thus can access jobs easily as compared tosingle mothers (Funk &amp Brindis, 2006). The opposite is true inMediterranean countries and Norway.

Despite the pension for widows being more generous in theMediterranean countries, the low income risk remains in othercountries like Norway and Netherlands. Single mothers aredisadvantaged in most places except Netherlands where existence isrecognized by choice for unmarried mothers. Poverty risks for lonemothers in other countries (Southern Europe) that still sociallyexclude them for not being married are greater. Single mothers areless likely to be given equal opportunities as married mothers(Gingrich, 2008). Divorced mothers have not been left out of this andbeing generally, closer to single mothers than widows puts them at adisadvantage.


Universal human rights declare that everyone has a right to basicneeds including medical care and social services (UN, 1948). Socialexclusion remains a controversial issue that needs to be addressedeffectively. Through dealing with social seclusion, the societysolves many problems including health, equity and equality. Socialseclusion in accessing health should not be debatable as it dealswith human life. There is a need to give the entire society a chanceto use social services like health and stop excluding some peoplefrom accessing such amenities, which are very crucial for survival.Since social seclusion aims at dividing the society into classes andleaving out some populations, dealing with it, will significantlyimprove social cohesion. It starts with informing the society on theeffects of social seclusion on health. Creating awareness on theimpacts of social seclusion on health will help promote fairness inthe health facilities and give an opportunity to every member of thesociety. Those who are excluded have a lot to offer to the societybut with exclusion, they do not have a chance to do anything abouttheir abilities. The society loses many talents and gifted peoplebecause of social exclusion. Without access to health facilities,human beings cannot be treated and risk losing their lives. Otherfactors like housing, education and employment continue to pose as achallenge to single parents leading to more exclusion. With thediscovered results from the research in Europe, we can drawconclusions of how social exclusion affects the society.

Future recommendations

There is a need to give equal treatment and opportunities to loneparents as that of married parent’s populations. This will not onlyhelp fight poverty but also help improve the crushed economies ofcountries. Social exclusion is a personal decision and that onlyindividuals will decide whether to exclude lone parents for theirstatus or give them a chance to have an equal opportunity and thrivein the world like married parents.


Carr, M. &ampChen, M. (2004).Globalization, social exclusion andgender, International labor review,143(1/2),129-160

European Commission. (2007). Poverty and social exclusion amonglone-parent households, policy studies findings, communityaction programme on social exclusion, Belgium print

United Nations (UN). (1948). The Universal Declaration of HumanRights.

Funk, J. &amp Brindis, C. (2006). Review of dying to be men: youth,masculinity and social exclusion, international journal ofmen’s health, 5(1)103-105

Gingrich, L.(2008).”Social exclusion and double jeorpardy: Themanagement of lone mothers in market state social field,” socialpolicy&amp administration, 42(4),379-395,doi:1467-9515

Governance, Social Development, Humanitarian, Conflict (GSDRC).(2007). Causes and Forms of Social Exclusion rights, Citizenshipand Economic Exclusion. Retrieved:

Fromhttp://www.gsdrc.org/go/topic-guides/social-exclusion/causes-and-forms-of-social- exclusion-rights-citizenship-and-economic-exclusion

Gowlett, C.(2010). “Learning from the margins: young womenexclusion and education,” Critical studies in education,51(20), 223-225

Smith, Y. (1997). The household, women’s employment and socialexclusion, Urban studies (Routledge),34980,1159-1177

Thin, N. (2011). “The wounds of exclusion: Poverty, women’shealth and social justice.” Medical anthropology quarterly,(2594), 548-550

Wilson, K. Elliot, S. Sue, K. and Diana, D.(2007). “Linking socialexclusion and health explorations in contrasting neighborhoods inHamilton, Ontario,”Canadian journal of urban research, 16.No:2:126-148,