Irish mothers, separation and divorce an exploratory study: examining experiences, services and policy
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Lone parent families are not a homogenous group rather this family form is varied and despite the vast array of research into the lives and experiences of lone parents in Ireland, there is a dearth of information on particular groups that form the lone parent cohort. This research fills the gaps in existing knowledge in relation to those that are lone parents through separation or divorce. Through the utilisation of biographical narrative interviews, this study explores the experiences of fifteen Irish mothers with primary school aged children who have undergone a legal separation and/or divorce and has, through a voice centered relational method of analysis (VCRM) identified the needs of this group in order to assess how Irish social policy and service provision respond to these needs. Underpinned by a feminist approach, this research amplified the voices of the mothers through the use of biographical narrative interviews which exposed shared experiences of intimidation, constraint, uncertainty and responsibility which are presented in the form of common stories told. These experiences are linked to differences and inequalities between mothers and fathers and between groups of women, with the consequences of such being more pronounced for mothers who are of a lower socio economic status. Adhering to the traditional homemaker role in marriage resulted in deficits in work experience, social capital and access to income, making these women dependent on the State following marital dissolution. The research concludes that the needs of mothers who have experienced a legal separation or divorce are not being met by either statutory service provisions or the Irish policy response to lone parents. This research has profound implications for future studies in the field of Irish social policy, as it highlights how the Irish social policy approach to formally married lone parents maintains dependence through the current legal apparatus of the State, with barriers to progression and autonomy identified in Social Welfare, employment and law as well as in the provision of services in these areas.