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Is Single Motherhood Bad for Your Health? Why You Should Be Skeptical

In Singled Out, I debunked myths about single people. Many of my chapter titles make fun of specific myths and scare stories, such as this one: "Attention, Single Parents: Your Kids are Doomed." When it comes to single parenting, a lot of the singlist bashing is wrapped in a faux concern for the children. Poor things. They are being raised by single parents. They don't have that magical marriage in their lives.

The latest research is targeting single mothers. We are now told that they are doomed, too – to poorer health than those far superior mothers who are married. The basis of the claim seems, on the face of it, rather impressive – a study of more than 25,000 women from 15 different nations. The researchers documented who among the women had been a single mother before the age of 50 and then looked at their current health and functional abilities later, when they were over the age of 50. The first sentence of their conclusions, on the first page of their article, was used as the basis of headlines in stories that blanketed the media: "Single motherhood during early adulthood or mid-adulthood is associated with poorer health in later life."

The Today Show picked up on it, and if you read to the end of the article they posted on their website, you will find out just what they tell single mothers to do. Can you guess what it is? Oh, yeah – get married!

I'm here to tell you what you did not read in any (well, hardly any) other article or media spot about this study: (1) The sweeping conclusion – single moms have worse health later in life! – is not so sweeping at all. There are entire regions in which it is not true at all. (2) There are many factors, other than single parenting, that could account for the results. (3) The study did not – and could not – demonstrate that single parenting caused poorer health. Even when there does seem to be a statistical relationship between single parenting and worse health later on, single parenting may not actually be the key driving factor in the poorer health.

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Wall Street Journal Tells New PhD that a Wedding Is More Important

By now, you've probably seen the video of the white Georgia principal who forgot to give the valedictorian a chance to speak at the graduation ceremony. As people started to leave the auditorium (by some accounts, a white family was the first to leave), the principal said, in a snide tone, "Look who's leaving – all the Black people!" An uproar followed, in the room and then in the media.

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‘Liberty is a Better Husband’ and Other Perspectives on Single Life

With Kate Bolick's Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own continuing to inspire conversations across the media, and encouraged by the interest in my review of the book here at Psych Central and in my post, 50 Shades of Single, I thought I'd share some of my favorite quotes and insights from the book. And because Spinster does not include among the five inspirational figures from the past anyone who stayed single for life, I will also add a few words of wisdom from someone who did, Louisa May Alcott.

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Everyday Singlism and That Ton of Feathers

Prejudice and stereotyping and discrimination are most likely to grab our attention when they happen in big, fiery, dramatic ways, as when unarmed Black men are killed by police on city streets. Although those marquee incidents are the most visible and often the most consequential, all of our various isms, such as racism and sexism and heterosexism and ageism and, of course, singlism, manifest on a daily basis.

Singlism (the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against single people) does not reach the depths of viciousness of the worst forms of racism or homophobia. Yet everyday singlism, like everyday sexism or racism or any other ism, does matter. Those small hurts and injustices, sometimes called micro-aggressions, can add up. As activists and consciousness-raisers like to remind us, we really can get crushed by a ton of feathers.

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50 Shades of Single

In my writings on single life, I have a lot to say about singlism, the ways in which single people are stereotyped and stigmatized and discriminated against. That includes – for single women, especially – the derogatory terms that have been hurled at them.

In her new book, Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own (which I reviewed for Psych Central), Kate Bolick reminds us that single women have not always been portrayed in entirely demeaning ways:

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Why Do People Get Angry at Women Who Stay Single and Don’t Have Kids?

As part of the feature, "Up for Discussion," at Zócalo Public Square, a panel of experts (myself included) was asked to provide a brief answer to the question below. Our discussion was published in Time magazine.

The question:

"Americans have come to accept a range of non-traditional family structures--so why does a woman's choice not to have children still elicit skepticism and judgment?"

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What Is the Best Way to Help More of the People More of the Time?

Look at the tagline at the top of this site, Psych Central, and you may find, "We've helped over 175 million people. We can help you too." The focus here is, of course, on the psychological. As a visitor to the site, you have probably become familiar with the many ways the information and the experts at Psych Central can help.

American discourse has always included an ongoing conversation about how best to help people in need, not just psychologically but all sorts of other ways, too. A recent concern is the growing economic inequality and the many ways it makes life more difficult for so many. One simplistic solution that is getting a whole lot of attention in the media is that we should simply get more people to marry (and discourage the already-married from divorcing). The advocates for the marriage solution have formed a Marriage Opportunity Council, so I call them the marriage opportunists.

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