JMF Study Finds Low-Income Mothers Expected to Reciprocate Support

Radey (left) and McWey

New research published in Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF) by Melissa Radey, Ph.D., and NCFR member Lenore M. McWey, Ph.D., on mothers' support networks discovered a noteworthy finding. Their study examined the support networks of low-income mothers in Chicago, Boston, and San Antonio. Mothers who received support such as small cash loans or child care from their network (typically family members), were also most often called on to reciprocate similar support to others.

The JMF article is currently free and open to the general public.

A release from Florida State University, where the two authors teach, explains that “understanding informal support and the reciprocal burden it may create is especially relevant for low‐income families living with a reduced public safety net in the post-welfare reform era.”

Although a majority of the mothers studied had healthy support systems, about a third of the sample experienced either no support or an imbalance of support.

Radey added in a statement that, for mothers living in poverty, “informal support is even more important today as fewer families receive public benefits.”

Looking ahead, Radey and McWey said that studies should examine how informal support evolves and whether it has an effect on parental stress and child health.

Learn more about this study.