Single mothers and child support: The possibilities and limits of child support policy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


In recent years, policy-makers have argued that one method of reducing welfare dependency is to toughen up child support enforcement. Yet every government effort to do so has yielded meager results. Furthermore, experts predict that even when fully implemented, Congress's most recent effort to fix this system, the Family Support Act of 1988, will do little more to help most poor children to get child support from their fathers. These failures indicate that policy makers and social scientists must go much further in their efforts to understand how child support policy affects or fails to affect families. Data drawn from 214 AFDC mothers in four cities show that although welfare mothers are mandated by law to pursue child support in cooperation with their local Child Support Enforcement office, many mothers who want to remain on the welfare rolls but do not want to reveal the father's identity engage in what I call covert non-compliance-they pretend to comply, but in fact hide crucial identifying information from the authorities. These data show that those who engage in covert non-compliance have good reason for doing so. In their negotiations with the welfare system, child support officials, and their absent partners, welfare-reliant mothers act strategically to maximize their family's potential economic and social gains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-230
Number of pages28
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Single mothers and child support: The possibilities and limits of child support policy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this