Social networks, resilience and public policy
: The role that support networks play for lone mothers in times of recession and austerity

  • James Canton

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


During the period 2007-2015 the United Kingdom experienced economic crisis, troubles and insecurity in the labour market, radical welfare reforms, service cuts, declining real income levels and a diminished standard of living for many. Research has consistently shown that the most vulnerable groups in society, such as lone mothers, have been disproportionately adversely affected by these changes. Given that someday there will be another recession, or some other serious socio-economic transformations, there is the need to think seriously about how policy makers might offer meaningful protection and resilience to those who will be affected. One policy maker, for example, has recently commented that: “in this period of austerity, we need to support families, and use the power of their relationships and the networks they create to help strengthen people’s capacity for resilience” (Jon Cruddas, March 2014). However, until now, this rhetoric seems to be operating only at the level of political ideals. There is a distinct lack of both theoretical and empirical substance. This thesis offers a redress. It offers a theoretical framework, grounded in an analysis of social networks, for understanding people’s resilience in face of adverse circumstances. It then applies this framework in an empirical investigation into the social support networks of lone mothers, and examines the role that these networks play in times of recession and austerity. The evidence shows that lone mothers vary in their capacity to cope with and adapt to wider socio-economic change. The findings suggest that this variability is linked to the capacity of the lone mother to create, sustain and mobilise a social support network. Those individuals with strong support networks of family and friends are more likely to be able to obtain resources necessary for daily family life and are more resilient in face of the uncertainties associated with new social environments. Given this, the thesis suggests that one way in which social policy might strengthen the resilience of people and families vulnerable to economic crises is through facilitating their support networks, and proposes ways in which this might be done.
Date of Award7 Oct 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorGraham Room (Supervisor) & Tess Ridge (Supervisor)


  • social networks
  • resilience
  • public policy
  • lone mothers
  • recession
  • austerity

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