Corroding motherhood: Australian single mothers’ social suffering and supplication

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter explores how the logic of Australia’s welfare and child support bureaucracies facilitate the state’s and men’s power to position mothers as supplicants in ways that corrode their financial stability and mothering identities. Divorce and separation are typically understood as disentangling previously shared lives but in the presence of children, legal and administrative processes can facilitate the ongoing gendered control of mothers by former partners and the state. This control and the social discourses in which it is contextualised produce the identities of welfare recipient, separated/sole mother and ‘ex’. Each of these is a position of supplication. Supplication reinterprets women’s pursuit of child support (child maintenance) and welfare payments – and, as importantly, recognition and agency – as a type of humble entreaty, not a legitimate claim. This can intensify financial insecurity, although to define its effects primarily in terms of material impact is to misunderstand many single mothers’ lived experience. These processes contribute to single mothers’ social suffering: the social misery of poverty and its attendant psycho-social implications of domination, disrespect and despair.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Suffering in the Neo-liberal Age
Subtitle of host publicationState Power, Logics and Resistance
EditorsKaren Soldatic, Louise St Guillaume
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdon
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-003-13177-9
ISBN (Print)978-0-367-67555-4, 978-0-367-67556-1
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameRoutledge Advances in Health and Social Policy


  • Parenthood
  • Single mothers
  • Child Support Program
  • Australia
  • Social inequity


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