Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Ande Nesmith


Social Work


The purpose of this study is to understand what differentiates single mothers and their children who are able to break the cycles of generational poverty from the millions of resilient, capable single mother-headed households who remain stuck living in poverty. The research was studied through the lens of ecosystems and empowerment theories. It looked at what helped and hindered single mothers to develop the belief in their abilities, and access necessary resources, to leave poverty within the context of individual, familial, community and broader societal benefits and constraints. This study was a systematic review which included an exhaustive review of the literature that met certain criteria to answer the research topic. The studies included in the review were peer-reviewed, empirical studies of qualitative and quantitative types of research representing single mothers living in North America with children ages 18 years old and younger. Exclusionary factors included studies conducted outside of North America and studies that focused more on households headed by married couples. Common themes included the importance of personal characteristics, social support, good parenting skills, education, employment and access to quality resources. Future research is needed on the effect of generational poverty on single mothers and their children to better understand the complexities of poverty and the multifaceted obstacles they face.

Included in

Social Work Commons