Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Single mothers-Education (Higher), Single mothers-Education (Graduate), Higher education, Graduate programs, Single mothers


The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of single mothers in graduate school. Past research indicates heightened rates of psychiatric distress among single mothers (Jayakody and Stauffer, 2000) as well as overrepresentation of single mothers living in poverty (Kates, 1996; Zhan and Pandey, 2004). Qualitative studies on single mothers within post-secondary and undergraduate programs exist, but little research has been done on those obtaining graduate level degrees. This descriptive study included past or present students who maintained single parent status as well as had at least one child under the age of six during program enrollment. Data for this qualitative study was collected via an anonymous online survey. Coding was conducted via thematic review. Sixteen participants participated in this study. The majority of respondents identified as White and 44% maintained an annual income at or below $15,000 while enrolled in their program. The average age of participants upon graduation was 31 years. This study's findings revealed that participants sought graduate degrees as a means to improve the standard of living for themselves and their families. Major areas of challenge for participants during enrollment included financial strain and having access to adequate childcare. Sources of strength included motivation for an improved future and the availability of supports throughout their time as a graduate student. Implications for this study include the need for improved awareness on part of social service providers and college program administrators to ensure academic success and healthy mental status for this unique student population.




ii, 48 p. : ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 36-38)