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Nevertheless, most myths do have some basis in reality. What then, are adults and children in a one-parent family most likely to lack? The first and most significant answer is money – a large proportion of one-parent households live at, or below, the poverty line. A second and related deprivation is that they frequently have less time and energy available for the ordinary activities of family and domestic life than other families. If the husband’s task is to earn money outside the home and his wife takes responsibility for most of the work within the home, the whole household suffers if either of them disappears. As fathers left on their own quickly discover, keeping the family together depends as much on the unpaid, and sometimes unrecognized, labour of child care and domestic work as on the wage packet. When either member of the team withdraws, the household’s standard of living is bound to deteriorate. With the best will in the world, departing fathers cannot make as great a contribution to the support of their families as they did when they lived together, especially if they intend to marry again and want to start a new family. Even when maintenance is paid regularly and in full, all the members of divorced families will be worse off financially than they were before they split up. Many one-parent families in Britain face serious poverty. One study carried out for the Finer Report, suggested that between 1969 and 1971 almost half of one-parent families were living below or near the official poverty line, the level at which Supplementary Benefit is set.

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