Higher education of single and married mothers

Ailsa Burns, Cath Scott, George Cooney

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    5 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper describes an Australian sample of 78 single and 107 partnered mothers who entered or re-entered tertiary study as mature age students. 27% were early school leavers; of those who had matriculated, early marriage and/or early pregnancy were major reasons for non-continuance with study, and this was particularly the case among those who subsequently became single mothers. Both partnered and single were enrolled in more traditionally female courses of study than were younger female students attending the same institutions. Some four-fifths of the sample felt they were managing their time, work, relationships, finances and overall coping poorly or very poorly. However their academic performance was well above average. The single mothers felt they were coping rather better than the married, especially with regard to money (despite being poorer), relationships and time. Overall satisfaction with university life was very high, with the main benefits reported by both single and partnered mothers being self-esteem, knowledge, intellectual interests and intelligence. Career benefits and financial potential were mentioned less often as main benefits and only slightly more frequently by the single mothers. The question is raised of whether mature age women students, as well as female school leavers, should be encouraged to enter non-traditional courses of study.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)189-206
    Number of pages18
    JournalHigher Education Research & Development
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1993


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