Commentary: COVID-19 and the Vulnerability of Single Mothers… : Family & Community Health


AS Establishments all-around the globe contend with the debilitating repercussions of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), institutions of greater schooling (IHE) in the United States have quickly moved to virtual instructing and studying. For parenting students (students boosting kids though in college or university), especially individuals who are single moms, this unexpected transform could be the conclusion of the street of their academic pursuits.

Around the previous 10 years, escalating quantities of parenting students have enrolled in IHE, representing 22% of all undergraduates, as of the 2015-2016 school 12 months.1,two Of these, moms account for more than 50 % (70%) of the parenting student inhabitants.two While a greater proportion of student moms are single mothers and fathers (62%), the the vast majority of fathers are married (61%).two Curiously, nevertheless, irrespective of their increasing quantities, only a small share (28%) of students who are single moms regulate to receive a degree in just six a long time of enrollment, and over fifty five% depart school and do not full their degree.3 Importantly, these students are nevertheless underrepresented in IHE, with sixty eight% of single moms compared to 36% of married moms obtaining only a superior school degree in the United States.four

While concurrently currently being a student and dad or mum will come with its peculiar worries, single motherhood aggravates the worries they face. For case in point, issues together with but not restricted to time requires, shouldering the load of parenting single-handedly, balancing get the job done and school requires, childcare access, and economic constraints exacerbate the troubles they face in earning a degree, which considerably put them at greater risk of poverty and unemployment.3–6 Further than these issues is the indirect intergenerational result a postsecondary schooling has on the long term career and instructional aspirations of kids. Scientific studies have proven that greater instructional attainment for single moms is associated with enhanced parental involvement with their kids, greater concentrations of kid’s motivation and aspiration to receive a college or university degree, more guides in the house, and enhanced time for nonacademic family functions.four In fact, securing the socioeconomic and economic stability of kids of students who are single moms advertently usually means closing present social and well being inequalities amid this inhabitants.1,five,six

Impression OF THE PANDEMIC ON Single Moms IN IHE

If students who are single moms in IHE faced more worries than their partnered parenting student counterparts pre-COVID-19, what then results in being their destiny as a result of the disruptions brought about by the pandemic? Whilst to the finest of our awareness, no scientific studies exist investigating this narrative, students assert that “single mothers and fathers will experience the biggest problem [from the pandemic].”seven While 19 million kids in the United States are living with a single dad or mum, 70% of single mothers and fathers are single momsseven—thus suggesting that single moms bear a disproportionate load of the pandemic.

It is plausible to deduce hence that vulnerable student populations this kind of as student single moms will expertise a magnified detrimental result of the pandemic on their degree attainment as opposed with their partnered counterparts. Problems highlighted previously, compounded by individuals peculiar to the pandemic this kind of as homeschooling burdens, opportunity job losses, enhanced parenting tension, quite possibly dealing with individual reduction (eg, loss of life of a family member and/or struggling from the virus), housing insecurity, sparse social support systems, lower in the instructional prospect of their kids, and worries that come up from distant studying (eg, inadequate internet and individual digital unit access), exacerbate the instructional and societal inequalities they experience. This is a major community well being problem with immediate and extended-time period well being care and coverage implications. The direct extended-time period result of the COVID-19 pandemic on the instructional pursuits of students who are single mothers and fathers and their kids continues to be to be found. These consequences will probably transcend well being care and develop into matters of social equity.

WHAT Limitations IMPEDE THE Academic Good results OF Single Moms IN IHE?

Quite a few barriers compound the worries student single moms experience and can be categorized broadly as structural and or person-stage things. Initial, the get the job done-initially insurance policies executed by crucial federal and state aid applications act as structural barriers to academic success. The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), for instance, requires single moms with kids more mature than six a long time to get the job done for thirty hours for every week to qualify for federal help.eight While innocuous, the get the job done-initially ideologies could inhibit the academic goals of student single moms who juggle conflicting roles and established them back socioeconomically. In their Editorial, The Lancet Community Health avers, “education is the crucial to lifting folks out of poverty and minimizing socioeconomic and political inequalities”9—indicating the need to have to prioritize the shipping and delivery of equitable instructional possibilities for feminine student mothers and fathers. Yet another barrier is the restricted sources accessible to mitigate the economic constraints parenting students face. For case in point, only a person federal childcare program—the Boy or girl Treatment Accessibility Signifies Mother and father in College (CCAMPIS)—exists to concentrate on the desires of student mothers and fathers. The CCAMPIS is a aggressive grant housed under the US Office of Education that supports on-campus childcare services for reduced-earnings students.10 Because of in section to resource constraints, the application only serves about 1% of its concentrate on inhabitants, and contemplating the increasing number of parenting students in IHE, less desires can be achieved leaving these vulnerable student populations to probability. Other notable barriers claimed by students include, but are not restricted to, unaffordable and restricted on-campus daycare facilities, lack of family-welcoming insurance policies, inadequate social community and interactions, and thoughts of isolation.2–6 Thinking about the disruptions of COVID-19 on childcare access, enrollment costs, and studying results for mothers and fathers and their kids, it is critical to look at how schools and universities can leverage present and other further sources to support their students’ success.


IHE, policymakers, and other pertinent stakeholders engage in a essential position in developing methods to enrich their campus surroundings to support single feminine students with kids in the course of and further than the pandemic. They must prioritize the heightened instructional, familial, and psychosocial desires of single moms in the context of instructing, studying, and caregiving. They must also recognize proper coping methods to enhance the resilience of student single moms and keep the high-quality and rigor of their distant schooling.

Initial, IHE should leverage present funding possibilities to support this vulnerable student inhabitants. In addition to the CCAMPIS, the CARES Act, a invoice enacted in response to the adverse financial effect of COVID-19, infused $3.five million to present federal applications to support childcare via the Boy or girl Treatment Progress and Block Grant.11 While eligibility demands and constraints fluctuate from state to state, these resources generate possibilities for institutions to create modern applications and services for student mothers and fathers. These types of applications may include very affordable or sponsored on-campus daycare facilities,12,13 scholarships, housing subsidies, no cost internet especially for individuals in rural areas, and studying machines (eg, pcs and tablets) to cut down the economic burdens these students experience.

2nd, IHE should generate inner pathways to mitigate the adverse result of COVID-19 on single dad or mum students’ studying. These include, but are not restricted to, recording and supplying downloadable course contents, implementing adaptable course schedules and deadlines, facilitating on line and off-line communication with college and personnel, and proactively advocate the use of university services (e.g., counseling and disability services) for these students.fourteen To obtain this, IHE should establish a campus weather that fosters a wholesome trainer-student romance this kind of as on-campus parenting student applications and facilities executed in some IHE.12,13

Developing robust family-welcoming insurance policies that centre on mitigating the disproportionate financial result the pandemic has on student single moms is similarly critical. IHE should deliver compensated unwell depart, and comprehensive well being insurance policy strategies to student single moms who get the job done on-campus3 else these students could forgo needed preventive and routine well being care checks for by themselves and kids when well being care access is restricted. Also, neighborhood businesses this kind of as foods banks, faith-based mostly businesses, Ladies Infant and Young children (WIC), and on-campus services (eg, student services departments and student-led businesses) should get the job done collaboratively to support single moms navigate these turbulent times.


As the environment adjusts to the “new usual,” and as IHE continue on hybrid (experience-to-experience, distant, and on line) studying in the spring of 2021, with no an imminent conclusion in sight, it is our collective duty to secure the academic, mental, and financial prosperity of vulnerable student populations and their kids. Also, doing so has the opportunity of yielding multigenerational and societal added benefits throughout the existence course.


1. United States Govt Accountability Office. Better schooling: more facts could support student mothers and fathers access further federal student aid. Up to date 2019.
two. Institute for Women’s Coverage Investigate. Mother and father in college or university by the quantities. or mum-success-initiative/mothers and fathers-in-college or university-by-the-quantities/. Up to date 2019.
3. Institute for Women’s Coverage Investigate. Time requires of single mom college or university students and the position of kid care in their postsecondary success. or university-students-and-the-position-of-kid-care-in-their-postsecondary-success/. Up to date 2018.
four. Radey M, Cheatham LP. Do single moms get their share? FAFSA completion amid aid-qualified feminine students. J Divers Better Educ. 20136(four):261–275. doi:10.1037/a0035089.
five. Wladis C, Hachey AC, Conway K. No time for college or university? An investigation of time poverty and parenthood. J Better Educ (Columbus). 201889(six):807–831. doi:10.1080/00221546.2018.1442983.
six. Lindsay TN, Gillum NL. Exploring single-mom college or university students’ perceptions of their college or university-related encounters and of campus services. J Contin Better Educ. 201966(3):188–199. doi:10.1080/07377363.2018.1537657.
seven. Alon T, Doepke M, Olmstead-Rumsey J, Tertilt M. The Impression of COVID-19 on Gender Equality. Cambridge, MA: Nationwide Bureau of Financial Investigate 2020.
eight. Center on Finances and Coverage Priorities. Coverage essentials: temporary help for needy families. Up to date 2020.
9. The Lancet Community Health. Education: a neglected social determinant of well being. Lancet Community Health. 20205(seven):e361. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30144-four.
10. US Office of Education. Boy or girl care access usually means mothers and fathers in school application. Up to date 2020.
11. 116th Congress (H.R.748—CARES Act). Up to date 2020.
12. Brown V, Nichols TR. Pregnant and parenting students on campus. Educ Coverage. 201327(3):499–530. doi:10.1177/0895904812453995.
13. Hotez E, Lin H, Chan V, et al. “If I invested five hours supplying birth then I can do this last:” A qualitative investigation of college or university students with kids. Trans Problems Psychol Sci. 20206(two):147–159. doi:10.1037/tps0000230.
fourteen. National Centre for Scholar Equity in Better Education. Supporting student wellbeing in the course of COVID-19: strategies from regional and distant Australia. Up to date 2020.

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