Single Parent Families in Australia
Contents 1. 1Introduction3 1. 2Social Wellbeing3 1. 3Disadvantage, Marginalisation, Power and Privilege4 1. 4Brief Report Outline4 2Research Methodology4 2. 1Reliability of Data and Limitations5 3Presentation and Analysis5 3. 1Housing6 3. 2Income7 3. 3Survey Evidence10 3. 4Survey results – Diagrammed12 3. 5Conflict and Functionalist Theories17 3. 6Functionalist Theory17 3. 7Conflict Theory18 4Conclusion – Evaluation and Decision Making19 4. 1Recommendations and Implications19 5Appendix20
Melissa Zanesco, Adderton 6 Study of Society report Single Parent Families Ms Brown 1 Introduction In a survey conducted over a period of ten years, it has been found that the number of single parent families has nearly doubled, and is continuing to increase [Figure 11 – ABS, 2007]. Despite this, single parent families in Australia face many challenges in terms of marginalisation and disadvantage because they do not have the same income advantage and housing accessibility as coupled families.
In particular, research has shown that women are even more so disadvantaged than men and, as such, experience further difficulty in raising children and balancing income and housing affordability. Consequently, these disadvantages lead to a lower chance of having power in society and therefore, not receiving the same level of privilege as those in married couples. 2 Social Wellbeing Social wellbeing comprises a number of contributing factors. The Australian Bureau of Statistics lists areas of concern as being health, education, employment status, economic resources and housing [ABS, 2001].
It is these very factors that directly affect the level of equality shown towards groups in society. In addition, if one’s access to these fundamental indicators is undermined because of their marital status, it can lead to social inequality. Inevitably, this produces unfair rights and opportunities between groups. Inequality arises in societies when individuals or groups within the society do not experience sameness of treatment in relation to class, wealth, education, gender or race [Wikipedia, 2010]. Single parent families are particularly affected by their access to ffordable and maintainable housing and their capacity to earn an adequate income in order to support their families. In 1996, the ABS Census of Population and Housing found that at least fifty percent of single parent home owners or private renters spent at least a quarter of their income on either mortgage repayments or rent [Council of Single Mothers & their Children, 2002]. This claim is further supported by findings from the survey completed – which found that of thirty people surveyed, 87% of single parents were living in rented accommodation compared to only 13% of married couples.
These statistics confirm that single parent families are hugely disadvantaged in housing ownership, primarily because the income being earned is not sufficient enough to purchase a house and the absence of a second income limits the level of privilege single parents have. 3 Disadvantage, Marginalisation, Power and Privilege Such disadvantages and consequent marginalisation inevitably produces inequalities in society, therefore hindering their access to power and privilege in the community.
Limited power in society results in single parent families receiving inadequate support and privileges [WordNet, 2009]. Power can often be confused with privilege. While the two are interrelated, one’s level of power is determined by their actions and the subsequent status achieved by it. Privilege can be seen as a result of having power. When one achieves power in society, greater privileges are rewarded [WordNet, 2009]. Similarly, marginalisation is also closely related to disadvantage. One is disadvantaged when they are not given equal access to opportunities.
Disadvantages are often caused by not having the same level of status as another because of lifestyle circumstances; in this situation it is being a single parent [WordNet, 2009]. Consequently, single parents and in particular single mothers are a minority group in society and as such become marginalised within the community because they are unable to have the same lifestyle a coupled family would have. 4 Brief Report Outline This report will investigate single parent families in Australia and the way in which they are disadvantaged through economic income and housing.
As a direct consequence of these disadvantages, single parents are being marginalised in society. From the ABS Social Indicators, housing and income will be analysed as areas of concern in order to evaluate whether single parent families are indeed disadvantaged because of their status in society. It will be investigated as to how these two measures of social wellbeing affect the level of equality shown towards single parent families. In addition, evidence from the survey will be presented to support the information given in the report.
Finally, both the conflict and functionalist theories will be considered to explain social inequality in relation to, and which theory is best suited to single parent families. Research Methodology The focus of the research was to locate information from an array of primary and secondary sources about single parent families in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics was the main secondary source used to find official statistics, while the quantitative survey completed was the primary source of data.
The survey provided information from thirty participants that would support the information presented and allow conclusions to be drawn. The questions in the survey focused primarily on housing and income and also what the general public’s view was on government assistance for families. The survey was created with convenience in mind, and thus featured primarily multiple choice questions, with one question asking for a written opinion on the government assistance scheme. Information found from secondary sources was presented in a research book and referenced accordingly. Reliability of Data and Limitations There were only three factors which may have played a role in the reliability and validity of the findings. Firstly, and the biggest variable was the survey responses. It is unknown whether every person surveyed gave truthful answers and while it was acceptable, it made it difficult to record accurate statistics if a participant did not want to answer certain questions. Secondly, in terms of the survey, only thirty people were questioned, which meant that the sample size was small and confined to Brisbane regions.
Presumably, this meant that it did not harness the opinion of a wide variety of people. And lastly, only about half of the survey participants were single parents and it was very difficult to find single parents, so the results were not as comprehensive as would have been preferred. Presentation and Analysis Single parent families consist of a parent whereby they do not live with either a married or de facto partner together with a child of their own that was dependent on the parents [ABS, 2007].
According to the information obtained through the surveys, 9 out of the 18 single parent families were single due to divorce of registered marriage. The other 9 of the 18 single parents stated that they had never been in a registered marriage, but this was single due to separation of de facto couples. It was found that single parent families are most often headed by women, with only a small minority headed by men [ABS, 2007]. This is a significant variable that has been consistent in research and whereby income and housing have shown to differentiate between the two.
Single parent families account for twenty two percent of families with children less than fifteen years of age in Australia [ABS, 2007]. This figure is expected to continue to rise, as can be seen in Figure 11, which has shown a steady and continual increase in single parent families from years 1987 to 2003. In 2006, 87% of one-parent families with children younger than 15 years were headed by mothers [ABS, 2007]. Yet, despite this rising trend, single parents continue to be one of Australia’s most disadvantaged groups, with little indication of improvement. 1 Housing
In 2007, 14% of single parent families publicly rented their homes, forty percent privately rented and forty percent owned or purchased their homes. While that figure does not seem alarming, it is when compared to the eighty percent of coupled families who owned their homes – double the rate of single parent families [ABS, 2007]. Coupled with this, the survey found that 87% of single parents surveyed were living in rental accommodation, compared to just 13% of married couples [refer to Figure 2]. Between the ABS and survey statistics, this is an average of 70. % of single parents living in rental housing. In addition, women are at a further disadvantage with 62% of single women surveyed living in rented homes and only 38% of single men with the same living arrangements [refer to Figure 3]. In addition, those applying to take out a mortgage must pass a certain criteria; including whether your income has the capacity to afford the repayments. Banks apply certain standards, like capacity to make repayments and many single parents are not earning enough to qualify for this criterion, making it even more difficult for single parents to buy a house.
The key trend here is that single parents are marginalised in housing ownership because only those with a high income may be able to afford to take out a mortgage and as such, are restricted in their chances of being able to purchase a house. A recent study by the University of South Australia found that single mothers faced discrimination when trying to secure housing in the private rental market because landlords were unwilling to sign leases for single mothers with children [AHURI, 2002].
Furthermore, Cam Smith from the Victorian Council of Social Service recently discovered that “rents have also been rising by about 15 per cent a year”, arguing that despite the growing costs of housing, the Government is yet to re-evaluate it’s rental assistance scheme for single parent families, with single parent families still spending more than a quarter of their income on housing [ABS, 2007].
Those eligible for rent assistance must be living in private rental accommodation and must also be receiving social security payments [Centrelink, 2010]. Many have called for a review of this policy because single parents on a low income that are not receiving social security payments are ineligible for rent assistance. This is supported by evidence found in the surveys which showed that half of the single parents surveyed were earning under $30 000 per annum, meaning that $7500 of this income is eing spent on rent alone. In summary, it is evident that in terms of housing access, single parent families struggle to obtain suitable housing that is affordable and maintainable and majority of single parents are unable to purchase a house because their income and other factors do not meet the criteria for home loans. Majority of single parents are living in rented accommodation and still find it difficult to pay rent even with rent assistance.
Thus, single parent families are marginalised in terms of home ownership because many do not earn a sufficient income to purchase a home, but cannot work more hours because they must be home to look after their children. Inevitably, single parent families are limited in their access to power and privilege because having dependent children means they are restricted to working less hours and earning a lower income – a key factor in determining the level of power a person has and the privileges attained by it. Income Research constantly shows that single parent families are at a greater risk of poverty than couple families. According to a study by the National Centre for Economic and Social Modelling (NATSEM), in 2001 the proportion of single parent families in income poverty was 18% compared with 6% of married couples with children (refer to Figure 1)[NATSEM, 2001]. The vulnerability of single parents results from the difficulty of balancing employment to earn an income while providing for and raising children alone.
The difficulty in this is that single parents who are raising children alone find it almost impossible to work any more than part time and thus, cannot earn the same income as married couples working full time. Single parents are disadvantaged because they are restricted in being able to work only a certain number of hours a week because a lot of time must be spent at home looking after their children. Single mothers are at a greater level of poverty as seen in the surveys; with only 26% of single mothers working full time, compared to 74% of single fathers [refer to Figure 7].
This statistic reinforces the argument that single mothers are not privileged in terms of income because they do not have opportunity to earn that of a full time working parent, and are more disadvantaged than single fathers because women account for the majority of single parents. In 2007, the ABS reported that forty two percent of single parent families were relying on government benefits as their primary source of income compared to six percent of coupled families with dependent children [ABS, 2007]. The disadvantage in this is that many single parents are headed by mothers, and it is widely known that women earn less than men.
In fact, surveys showed that 38% of single mothers were earning less than $30 000 per annum compared to just 11% of single fathers earning the same income. Furthermore, just 5% of single mothers were earning over $45 001 per annum compared to 38% of single fathers earning the same amount [Figure 6]. These results highlight the fact that single fathers are less disadvantaged when it comes to income because they are more likely to be working full time than single mothers and as such are less likely to be living in poverty.
If majority of single mothers are only working part time and if wealth equals power, single women are limited in their access to power in society because they are unable to achieve power with minimal income. This demonstrates the income marginalisation of single mothers when compared to their male counterparts and the fact the single mothers are one of society’s most underprivileged groups. According to a survey conducted by the Child Support Agency in 2000, seventy five percent of the ninety one percent of single mothers were raising children on incomes below $20 000.
Furthermore, these women were earning and average of $295. 00 per week, but research conducted by the University of Canberra found that the weekly cost of raising two children alone was $310. 00 [CSA, 2000; University of Canberra, 2003]. This proves that single mothers are earning less than basic living expenses require and are finding it incredibly difficult to survive, despite child support from the government, it is not sufficient for single mothers to live comfortably.
In addition, if they are earning barely enough to support their children, it would be impossible to save any money to put towards possible housing ownership. This reinforces the argument that single mothers are increasingly disadvantaged by only having one source of income and that hinders their access to any privilege in society because they do not have any assets or savings needed to gain a powerful status in society. Further statistics are proving that single parent families are at a disadvantage when it comes to income and child support.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies research paper notes that forty one percent of single parents were receiving no child support, due to income deemed too high to be eligible and hours children spent in their custody were not enough. Of those who did receive it, over eighty percent got only one hundred dollars or less per week [AFS, 2003]. In addition, the surveys showed that a huge 89% of single parents were not satisfied with the government assistance they were receiving (refer to Figure 4) and believed the government did not provide enough funds for single parents.
The key trend noted here is that even those receiving child support are still only receiving minimal amounts and a low income means their financial disadvantage is at an all time low. An average single parent family spends half its income on rent, household bills, and food while parents who are married spend under one third of the budget on these essentials, further highlighting the fact that married parents do not face anywhere near the level of financial hardship that single parents do [ACOSS, 2005].
The expenses of raising a child do not decrease because one is a single parent, and these statistics are proving that single parent families are becoming financially marginalised because their inevitable low incomes are preventing them from living comfortably. This information has clearly distinguished the extreme disadvantages in terms of housing and income that single parents, and in particular, single mothers face. Single parents on the whole are earning far less than those who are married and as such, are disadvantaged in their ability to buy necessities and have any money remaining to put towards savings or other expenses.
It is clear that single mothers are the most marginalised because majority of children in single parent families live with their mother and as such, single mothers must lessen their working hours to ensure that they are home to raise their children. It is clear that single parents with primary custody should be receiving more support from the government to compensate for their inability to work full time and government assistance should be provided with more consideration of the single parent’s situation. 3 Survey Evidence (Notes: *all statistics and figures presented in this section are out of thirty participants surveyed. those who responded as being ‘Never married’ were previously in a de facto relationship that had separated, and those without children in this category were omitted from the results. ) ? Of the single parents surveyed, 44% were male headed and 55% were female headed (Figure 1). The information presented in this report reinforces that single mothers are at a greater disadvantage than single fathers due to majority of single parent families being headed by women and their limitations in earning a high income because of family commitments, thus making them less likely to achieve any power or privileges in society. Of those who were living in rented accommodation, 87% were single parent families and 13% were married parents (Figure 2). This supports the argument that single parents are marginalised in their ability to afford a mortgage and their low incomes prevent them from being eligible for a home loan. ? Furthermore, of the single parents renting, 62% were single mothers and 38% were single fathers (Figure 3). Single mothers are marginalised in housing ownership because many experience discrimination when applying for a home loan and low incomes make housing ownership almost impossible. Married parents were earning a minimum of $45001 per annum, with 67% earning $75001 or more a year (Figure 5) Married parents have the ability to gain power in society because while one parent is raising the children, another can be out working full time and earning good money, which is a determining factor in one’s level of power. Thus, wealth and power means greater privileges are rewarded and married couples are less restricted in achieving this than single parents are. 61% of single parent families were earning under $30000 per annum (Figure 5). This reinforces the fact that low income means limited access to power and privilege in society and wealth in a major disadvantage for single parent families. ? Furthermore, the single parents who were earning $45001 or more (2) were unsurprisingly men (Figure 6) Single fathers are less marginalised than single mothers because they have the capability and time to work longer hours and earn more due to most single parent families being headed by women. 74% of single fathers were working full time, compared to just 26% of single mothers (Figure 7) Single mothers are disadvantaged in their ability to work full time because they must be home to take care of their children, which limits the hours they can work. ? 70% of single parents had children enrolled in state schooling, while just 28% of married parents had children attending state schools (Figure 8). Married parents earn more > can afford private schooling; single parents earn less > don’t have financial opportunity to send children to private school therefore, they are marginalised in their access to education. 65% of married parents were unaware of the current government assistance scheme for parents, while 21% of married parents thought it was unfair and 14% thought it was fair or that single parents should be given counselling (Figure 9). Married couples do not know what single parents are receiving from government and so, that may be preventing them from lobbying for the government to provide single parent families with more assistance. Perhaps better education about government assistance should be given to harness stronger opinions from people. 61% of single parents were unsatisfied with the government assistance they were receiving, while 22% were satisfied with it and 17% were not entitled to it (Figure 10). Single parent families are at a disadvantage of only having one income, but are even more so marginalised because government assistance provided does not compensate for a second income; it is only support. ? Single parents surveyed were not receiving anymore than $200 fortnightly in Government Assistance.
Despite being at an income disadvantage, single parents who are desperately in need still receive no more than $200 fortnightly which indicates the limitations they have to afford life essential, let alone save any money to afford to buy a house. 4 Survey results – Diagrammed Figure 1: [pic] Figure 2: [pic] Figure 3: [pic] Figure 4: [pic] Figure 5: [pic] Figure 6: [pic] Figure 7: [pic] Figure 8: [pic] Figure 9: [pic] Figure 10: [pic] 5 Conflict and Functionalist Theories The Conflict and Functionalist theories are concepts developed by theorists looking for a way to describe levels of class in society.
Each has key tenets that make them different and why one in particular may be a better explanation of single parent families and their marginalisation and disadvantage in society, which leads to power and privilege shown towards them. 6 Functionalist Theory The Functionalist theory sees levels in society as a comparison to the human body. It sees the social system to be made up of different interconnected parts and if any of these ‘organisms’ break down, the rest of society will malfunction.
Functionalists approve of social order and view inequality as natural and necessary where ‘everyone gets their due’. In addition, they see social change as disruptive on the system unless it happens gradually and social stratification is useful in maintaining stability in society. It sees those with special talent as deserving of the social reward and privilege (wealth, power, prestige) but fails to explain the place of those in society where their social status is ascribed or inherited, and not achieved.
As such, the Functionalist theory sees single parent families and the disadvantages they experience as necessary to maintain social order and believe they receive what their position in society is worthy of. [Sociology: Australian Connections. 2007] 7 Conflict Theory The Conflict Theory originates from the thinking’s of Karl Marx who studied societies throughout history. Marx believed that social change emerges through the struggle and conflict being played out between social classes.
The Conflict Theory sees social stratification as a result of groups becoming rich and powerful then preserving their own interests above those in lower classes. Conflict theorists view tension, hostility, competition and differences as a permanent and inevitable feature of societies. The key idea in the Conflict Theory is that ‘social order is marked by conflict and maintained by force’. It states that life chances are less for members of subordinate and powerless groups who have inferior opportunities, which in the case of single parents, is the limitations in income and housing that their situation has created.
It is important to note that Conflict theorists do not see conflict as a negative force, more that it has many consequences bringing about social change. [Sociology New York, 1987; Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 2000. ] Of the two theories, the Conflict theory more suitably explains the disadvantage and marginalisation experienced by single parent families. The rising number of single parent families is due to their low level of income forcing them into a lower social class and as such, their level of class hinders their access to power in society.
Due to their lack of power and marginalisation in comparison to married parents, the opportunities of single parents are limited to those that they can afford and find time for and it has proven to be a vicious cycle that is very difficult to break. The rising number of single parents and disadvantages they experience in comparison married parents has been an issue for some time and so, as the Conflict theory states, these differences are bound to bring about change in the future. For these reasons, the Conflict Theory is a better explanation of single parent families.
Conclusion – Evaluation and Decision Making Single parent families are one of Australia’s most underprivileged and powerless groups. In particular, single mothers have shown to be the most disadvantaged group and experience the highest level of financial disadvantage and are most marginalised in their housing accessibility. Because most single parent families are headed by women, single mothers are limited in their access to power because it is a constant struggle to balance earning an income with family duties.
As such, single mothers do not receive the same privileges as married parents because they are restricted in their ability to earn a high income which limits the opportunities available to them. Single fathers have shown to be less disadvantaged than single mothers but still experience hardship in relation to home ownership. The research has proven that the disadvantage experienced by single parent families has shown no signs of improvement and married parents continue to have a much greater level of power and more privilege in society. As the Conflict theory states, when there is conflict between two groups in society single and married parents), it is destined to bring about social change. For that reason, the rising number of single parents in Australia is not necessarily a negative force, but one that is demonstrating the need for reform in the Government support and privileges that single parent families so desperately need. 1 Recommendations and Implications It can be seen from the primary and secondary sources of information that single parents experience the greatest disadvantage in their ability to work full time to earn a high income and their ability to purchase a home.
Thus, it is recommended that the Government puts in place certain programs and funding to ensure that the marginalisation of single parents is decreased and that the equality between married and single parents is made level. This can be achieved by providing single parents with child care grants that provide single parents with the opportunity to work full time without having the burden of child care costs. In addition, the government should provide single parents with grants to purchase a home to ensure that their single income does not restrict their access to home ownership.
Furthermore, grants for everyday necessities such as groceries and fuel should be provided so that single parents have a higher chance of being able to save money. Finally, the government should create some programs for single parents that give them advice on how to handle work and family duties and how they can save money even on a low income. These suggestions may cost taxpayers more money, but at the end of a day, if society wants to live in an egalitarian society, these are the first steps that must be taken in order to achieve this. Appendix Figure 11: [pic] Figure 12: [pic] Figure 13: [pic] Bibliography Article Base. (2008, October 21).
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