Lone Mothers Living in Poverty in Chile
: Hearing their voices

  • Claudine M Litvak Cooper

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This study explored the impacts of poverty on lone mothers with young children, especially those related to shame and stigma. It also examined the support they received, their coping strategies and explored their experiences and perspectives about State provision, especially childcare. A qualitative methodology using semi-structured video testimonies with 20 women from the municipality ‘La Pintana’ in Santiago, was employed and the data were analysed using thematic analysis. The findings indicated that despite the last decades of economic growth in Chile, the approach adopted by neo-liberal politicians has failed to provide an acceptable standard of living for the mothers. The lone mothers experienced severe material poverty, as well as feelings of shame and stigma, and they deployed a number of strategies to survive, including reliance on their networks of extended family and friends and also making use of the informal economy, in order to subsist. Most of the mothers saw their poverty as a consequence of personal failure rather than the result of structural processes associated with a market economy, weak welfare provision, and cultural practices associated with machismo. Therefore, one-dimensional policies, such as the childcare component of ‘Chile Grows’ will not increase the number of women in the labour market as expected, if such policies do not take account the reality of the mothers’ situations including the range of responsibilities and obligations they have. Policies have to be comprehensive and built on an awareness of the complex interactions between care, work and low wages for women who are simultaneously the primary carers and main breadwinners. Drawing on the study findings, which focus on the mother’s voices, the implications for policy are discussed. In addition, the importance of hearing the voices of those most affected by poverty, is identified as crucial to effective policy-making and implementation.
Date of Award28 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorElaine Farmer (Supervisor) & Christina Pantazis (Supervisor)

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