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Working parenthood and parental obligation

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This article reports upon aspects of a small-scale qualitative study of low-income working families. The study was conducted in the context of recent policy changes in Britain that are intended to promote labour force participation by low-income parents, especially mothers. It is argued that while popular opinion is generally supportive of mothers taking paid employment, some deep-rooted ambivalence remains. Mothers in low-income families can experience the life-course transition involved as difficult in terms of the practical obstacles, the moral dilemmas and the ideological pressures. Without additional measures to support them in relation to their parental obligations low paid women are being pressed, at best, to exchange familial dependency for economic exploitation.

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