In the United States, the number of single mothers is on the rise. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2000 that one-third of all children were being raised by a single parent, with 80% of this number being single mothers.
While divorce accounts for the majority of children being raised by single parents, over 40% of all single mothers have never been married.
The stigma generally attached to single mothers has been eroded over the past few years. Celebrities, whose choices to become single mothers have been highly publicized, are largely responsible for this change in societys attitude toward single mothers. An opinion gaining ground is that, rather than being seen as a failure for failing to attract a man with which to raise a family, many single mothers are successful women who know their own mind, know what they want and how to get it.
Scientific and medical advances and breakthroughs in reproductive technology have given single women new, more palatable options in becoming pregnant. The increase in quality sperm donors and more advanced techniques in keeping donated sperm viable for longer periods of time give single women a wider range of choices and a higher comfort level in choosing artificial insemination. The technology of artificial insemination has also advanced, increasing the likelihood that the woman will become pregnant.
Adoption is also becoming a viable alternative for women wishing to become single mothers. Many adoption agencies have changed their policies on allowing single parent adoptions and will now consider financially stable single women as suitable to be adoptive mothers.
Improved conditions in the workplace also are giving more women the option to become single mothers. Rather than the blatant discrimination against single mothers that many employers practiced in the past, many employers now offer on-site daycare. Special rooms are available on the job site in which lactating mothers can express breast milk, job-sharing programs and flexible work schedules are available to accommodate mothers who work outside the home.
Single mothers do have their critics. There are sectors who feel that women who have deliberately chosen to be single mothers are women who have not had the time, the opportunity or the resources to attract a man with whom they would want to raise a family. There is a strong following that believes that children of single mothers are at a disadvantage. The erosion of the traditional family is a major issue in these sectors, who feel that children of single mothers turn out to have higher incidences of out-of-wedlock births and divorce due to the influences of a single parent family.