Taiwanese never-married single mothers
: the decision, consequences and strategies of managing single motherhood in a Confucian context

  • Hung-Ju Lai

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Being only 6% of all single mothers, never-married single mothers in Taiwan are a group of mothers which have been neglected for long time. Public perception of these mothers has been harsh and they are associated with infanticide, abortion or welfare dependency. Although often needing welfare, while in the welfare system, adult mothers are often excluded from certain child-related benefits and categorised together with teenage mothers despite their diverse needs. Inevitably, they need to deal with the process of stigmatisation and poverty within the East Asian context, given that marriage is still the predominant form of marital status and the male breadwinner model is prevalent in this region. This research, therefore, aims to explore the underlying reasons for their decision to be mothers in such circumstances; the financial and interpersonal consequences facing never-married single mothers; and the strategies they develop to deal with their lives within the Taiwanese context.This research conducted in-depth interviews with 30 adult never-married single mothers in Taiwan, and used the Ecomapping (or Sociogram) technique to elicit rich data and to visualise change in their social networks. The findings highlight that their decisions to become mothers mirrored the gendered expectation from Confucianism when it emphasises the importance of motherhood. This has offered them a ‘space’ to justify themselves as a never-married single mother. However, the challenges facing them following their unwed pregnancy were significant and led to them being financially disadvantaged and socially stigmatised. This study reveals their strategies of economic survival and explores how they manage their stigmatised lives according to the level of resources they could access and deploy and the quality and strength of their social and familial relationships.According to the findings, it is argued in this research that as a women/mother in the Taiwanese context, it is financially and socially risky for them to choose another pathway (i.e. becoming a mother without getting married) to fulfil the goal of their lives. Unless this society becomes more permissive and the state facilitates a secure employment environment for women as a whole, only trivial agentic actions applied by these individual mothers aimed at confronting the existing social norms will be observed and they could hardly transform the context.
Date of Award6 Sept 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTess Ridge (Supervisor) & Ian Butler (Supervisor)

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