Solo Fathers and Mothers: An Exploration of Well-Being, Social Support and Social Approval.
Research has begun to explore the experiences of single mothers by choice who choose to start a family alone and do so using donated gametes. However, very little is known about the experiences of single fathers by choice, and even less is known about how their experiences might compare to mothers in the same position. This exploratory study of single mothers (n = 19) and fathers (n = 17) by choice examined mental health and social support among mothers who used sperm donation, and fathers who used egg donation and surrogacy, to become parents. Data relating to their reasoning for pursuing solo parenthood, mental health, and social support were analyzed quantitatively. To further explore fathers' experiences of being a solo parent, a thematic analysis was conducted exploring their descriptions of social responses to their family type. Regarding parental mental health, no statistically significant differences were found between mothers and fathers, and both groups of parents had sought out supportive networks, both before becoming a parent, and as a single parent. Fathers' responses indicated that they received both supportive and negative reactions, although they generally perceived the majority of interactions to be positive. However, frequent references made by members of the public, or by the media, to their family type being new or different served to reproduce social scripts about normative family types. The study findings, despite the small sample size, contribute to a new understanding of the well-being and experiences of both mothers and fathers who choose to start their family and parent alone.
Wellcome Trust (208013/Z/17/Z)