Book Chapter

Changes in lone mothers' health: a longitudinal analysis

In: Bernardi, L., Mortelmans, D. (Eds.): Lone parenthood in the life course, 323–338
Life course research and social policies 8
Cham, Springer (2018)
Open Access


International research has shown that lone mothers are a socially and economically disadvantaged group. They are frequently at a higher risk of poverty and unemployment. Interdisciplinary research suggests that lone mothers have higher rates of physical and psychiatric illness than mothers with partners. The aim of this paper is to focus on the health satisfaction and well-being of lone mothers during their life span. The analysis is conducted using a large dataset from the German Socioeconomic Panel (SOEP). The sample consists of women in lone motherhood at some time during the panel period between 1984 and 2011 (N = 2006). SOEP provides health satisfaction and well-being measures for the whole survey period. Longitudinal fixed-effects (FE) linear regression models are used to identify changes in lone mothers’ health during the transition into lone motherhood. The results show that, besides separation, the transition into lone motherhood and the lone mother episode have significant negative effects on the health satisfaction and well-being of lone mothers. Other factors, such as the duration of lone mother episode, being in a relationship (without living in the same household with the partner) or the number of underage children have opposite effects on health satisfaction and well-being. The results demonstrate that socioeconomic circumstances such as income change and employment status may affect lone mothers’ well-being during the transition into lone-motherhood.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.