Single Parents' Work Aspirations


April 2010 to November 2011

PSI researchers:

Kathryn Ray

Fatima Husain

Sandra Vegeris

Karen Mackinnon

Background, summary and aims

Background, Scope and Aims

More single parents are being asked to move into paid work. But jobs attained by single parents are often low pay and low status. The project will investigate diverse single parents’ career aspirations, and develop the design for an employment programme to help them achieve these goals. The research questions to be addressed are:

  • What patterns exist in lone parent employment at present?
  • How do patterns vary with subgroups of parents defined by ethnic or disability status, gender, and age?
  • What do lone parents identify as the most desirable key characteristics of a paid job?
  • How are these key characteristics different for sub-groups of single parents?
  • Which careers and which employment sectors have some or all of the key characteristics to enable single parents to thrive in work?

Project Design

The project has four stages:

  • Desk based research on current work choices of single parents. We will use literature search and analysis of existing data to establish patterns of single parent employment, pay and progression.
  • Research with single parents. Focus groups will identify the characteristics of an ‘ideal’ job for single parents; a survey will develop a typology of single parents’ career aspirations.
  • Identification of career options. Expert interviews and desk based research will identify career paths and sectors which meet the key aspects of an ideal job.
  • Designing an employability programme in one of the sectors identified in the previous stages. The outcome will be a model of how to support single parents to achieve their career aspirations.

The project will run for 16 months.

Importance of Research

The project is led by Gingerbread working with the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Better services and interventions for beneficiaries: the project is designed to improve services for single parents, and to communicate the findings to policy makers;
  • To create opportunity: the project aims to create new opportunities for parents;
  • To improve VCS research participation and knowledge: partnership with PSI will enhance Gingerbread’s ability to conduct research.