The Effects of Marriage, Un-Marriage, Divorce and Re-Marriage on Mother’s Well-Being

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SINGLEHOOD, MARRIAGE AND REMARRIAGE

The Effects of Marriage, Un-marriage, Divorce and Re-marriage on Mother’s Well-being

Abstract

This report explores three areas of mothers’ well-being (happiness, self esteem and depression) over four family structures (first-married, un-married, divorced and re-married). Using a local women association representative sample of 33 mothers, the results indicate significant differences across the four family structures. Mothers in the first-marriage enjoy the highest well-being, mothers in the re-marriage are nearly as well, while divorced and un-married mothers have the lowest well-being.

The Effects of Marriage, Un-marriage, Divorce and Re-marriage on Mother’s Well-being

Nowadays, it is increasingly common for men and women to stay longer in education and start work when they grow older, thus forming families at older ages. The median age at first marriage for men increased from 27 in 1981 to 31 in 2006 and for women, from 24 to 28 over the same period. The number of registered first marriages of both parties had been falling during 1981 to 2005, but it rebounded slightly in 2006. Meanwhile, the number of divorces increased continuously during this period and the number in 2006 was eight times that in 1981. Remarriages also rose considerably over the same period (Marriage and Divorce Trends in Hong Kong, 1981 to 2006).

Many studies have examined this issue in the Western Countries. McLanahan (1984) indicates that single mothers experienced usually high levels of psychological distress, which is due primarily to the ongoing strain associated with low income. Several explanations have been given to account for this relationship including the arguments that: (1) single mothers are exposed to more stressful life events and more ongoing strain, (2) single mothers are more vulnerable to stressful events and strain, and (3) women who become single mothers are less healthy to begin with.

Studies in Canada (Lipman, Offord, & Boyle, 1997) also conclude that single mothers are more likely to be poor, to have an affective disorder and to use mental health services than mothers in 2-parent families. The risk of mental health problems is especially pronounced among poor single mothers.

In Hong Kong an unmarried mother who allegedly fed an infant son (her fifth child) with diluted milk and water that caused him to starve to death at three months of age, was sentenced to six years imprisonment in the District Court in 2012.

Though the above studies have been conducted in-depth but they might not be applicable in Hong Kong due to the differences in culture, economic and social conditions.

Our study has two purposes. First, it is designed to evaluate the overall well-being of mothers over four family structures (first-married, un-married, divorced and re-married). The second purpose of the study is to explore whether local assistance is adequate for them.

Method

Participants

The data for this study rely on the questionnaires of 33 mothers living in one of four types of families: 1) 1st marriage
The first family type consists of mother and father in their first marriage with one or more children under 18 years old living at home. 2) Un-marry
The second family type consists of a mother who has never married with one or more children under 18 years old living at home. 3) Divorced
The third family type consists of a mother who has divorced with one or more children under 18 years old from a previous marriage living at home. 4) Re-marriage
The fourth family type consists of a mother who has remarried with one or more children under 18 years old living with her and her current husband.

Procedure

Measurement of mothers’ well-being in the following three aspects. First of all, a mother’s overall well-being is assessed by a single question. Mothers were asked to give an overall evaluation of themselves and their lives...
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