The meanings of (re)partnering for lone mothers

Ornella Larenza, Université de Lausanne
Laura Bernardi, Université de Lausanne

Current research on (re)partnering among lone mothers (LMs) has mainly investigated their probability of (re)partnering in relation to their demographic and socio-economic characteristics. Little is known about LMs’ subjective meanings of (re)partnering. This project aims at exploring the meanings of (re)partnering for LMs living in French speaking Switzerland. Two waves of semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2012/2013 and 2015 with a group 38 LMs with full custody of their children, living in the Cantons of Vaud and Geneva. 13 meanings around (re)partnering can be clustered along a continuum going from (re)partnering as a decision regarding the LM’s family (i.e. both LM and her child) to (re)partnering as a decision regarding only the LM. 3 clusters of meanings emerge along the continuum in relation to LMs' expectations for the partner’s role in their children’s life: the more (re)partnering regards the LM’s family, the more the partner’s interaction with the child will be important for the LM in her choice to (re)partner and vice versa. As a decision regarding the LM’s family (re)partnering may imply at least 2 different forms of involvement of the partner: as a parent and as parent figure/reference model. The partner can also be seen as source of conflict for the LM’s family equilibrium and lead to no (re)partnering. Meanings about (re)partnering might also depend on the partner encountered and not just on LMs' expectations. Some LMs expressed more than one meaning simultaneously (but never meanings at the opposite extremes of the continuum). This implies that sometimes (re)partnering is not purely a decision concerning the family nor purely a decision concerning only the LM. Finally, some LMs changed meaning over time. The reasons for such change (in relation to LMs’ life course and partnership characteristics) will be subject to investigation in the next steps of the project.

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Presented in Poster Session 1