Family structures across America are changing. But even as Americans redefine what “family” means and unconventional arrangements become more commonplace, a new survey from the Pew Research Center shows that an overwhelming number of people still believe that one of the most widespread “alternative” family arrangements out there–single motherhood–is bad for society.
The survey results captured the sharp divisions that exist in this country when it comes to beliefs about new family structures. Aside from single moms–that is, single women raising children without a male partner–the survey asked about gay and lesbian couples, unmarried couples raising children, mothers of young children who work outside the home, inter-racial unions, and mothers choosing not to have children.
The results were used to separate the group of 2,691 adults into three clusters: “Accepters,” “Rejecters” and “Skeptics.” A half to two-thirds of “Accepters” did not take issue with these trends, while a majority of “Rejecters” believed that, other than inter-racial marriage and fewer women having children, the other trends were bad for society. “Rejecters” were also the only group to say that working mothers are bad for society–61 percent of Rejecters answered this way. “Skeptics” were divided in their opinion, though almost all of them thought that single motherhood was bad for society, a belief shared by “Rejecters.”
“Accepters” were the only people to say that single mothers were good for society–13 percent–while 74 percent of the group said it made no difference. To get some sense of this huge division (69 percent of the overall population were “Skeptics” or “Rejecters”) we spoke with the author of the report, Rich Morin.
What was the most surprising finding?
That Americans attitudes towards single motherhood were so negative– by negative I mean, nearly seven out of ten said that single women raising a child without the benefit of a male partner was bad for society. When we did the cluster analysis, we found something even more surprising: there was one group–the “Skeptics”–who by and large were very tolerant on every measure except for that one. It separated an otherwise tolerant group from those who were accepting of all the changes in family life.
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