Author ORCID Identifier


Document Type


Publication Date



Single motherhood, Poverty reform discourse, Welfare recipients, Moral judgment, Patriarchy


This Essay focuses on the construction of the concept of "Mother" in poverty discourses. It addresses the role of patriarchical ideology in the process whereby a characteristic typical of a group of welfare recipients has been selected and identified as constituting the cause as well as the effect of poverty. I am particularly interested in those political and professional discourses in which single Mother status is defined as one of the primary predictors of poverty. This association of characteristic with cause has fostered suggestions that an appropriate and fundamental goal of any proposed poverty program should be the eradication of the status and practice of single motherhood. This goal is to be accomplished through appropriate coupling of the single mother with the child's father- who would thereby assume his "rightful" place in the family and fulfill his financial obligations. By his so doing, the paramount welfare reform objective-letting the state off the economic hook-will have been achieved.

First Page


Publication Title

Duke Law Journal


Copyright © Martha L. Fineman 1991.