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Maternal Absence

  • By: Denise Vallance
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Most mothers expect to live with and care for their children from childhood through to adolescence. However, either through choice or force of circumstance or a combination of both, some mothers find themselves living apart from their children on a long-term or permanent basis. The process of maternal absence typically involves a physical, emotional, social, and sometimes legal shift in the nature and quality of a woman's relationship to her birth children.

The last century has seen an increase in maternal absence, and the main reason appears to be the diversification of family structures. Among these changes are a decline in fertility rates, an increase in nonmarital cohabitation or common-law relations (including same-sex couples), an increase in the divorce rate, and an increase in the prevalence ...

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