An International Women’s Day Focus – Mother’s Education Level

Press Release

An International Women’s Day Focus –

Mother’s Education Level and Impacts on Lone Parenthood and Well-Being of Children

(Dublin, Friday 7th February 2014) One Family – Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families in Ireland today – looks forward to acknowledgment of International Women’s Day on Saturday 8th March and calls for a new look at education for women in Ireland. Founded by a small group of strong, progressive women who rejected the accepted ‘norm’ to bring about great change including the abolition of the status of illegitimacy, One Family has worked to better the lives of women and children for over four decades.

A mother’s education level has a huge effect on the well-being of children. In Ireland, the majority of lone mothers are aged between 35 and 49 (CSO 2011). Tony Fahey, UCD in ‘Growing Up In Ireland’ (GUI 2011), found that early child-bearing (before the age of 25) is the main factor predicting lone parenthood, no matter what the educational level of the mother, but that less educated women are more likely to have a first birth before age 25. Currently this group represents 6% of the total number of lone parents in the state (CSO 2011).  ‘Growing Up in a One-Parent Family’, a study by researchers at the University of Limerick using the ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ data published by the Family Support Agency in December, indicated that children from one-parent families and cohabiting families fare the same as children from married families when faced with similarly adverse conditions growing up. It concluded that the traditionally perceived benefits of marriage in relation to child development are not a result of marriage itself but are due to the parent or parents’ background and educational levels.

The increase in child well-being over the past 40 years can be attributed to the better education of women, according to GUI 2011. Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, comments: “The effect of women’s educational expansion on child well-being is enormous. Better educated women may be more likely to understand the development needs of their children and resourced to cope through stressful transitions. Improving women’s education tends to increase national wealth, which in turn improves population’s health.”

Worldwide, there were 8.2 million fewer deaths in 2011 among children younger than 5 than there were in 1970. Of those “averted deaths,” 4.2 million were the result of better-educated mothers and 590 million the result of higher-income households (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington). The rest of the lives saved were attributable to better health interventions. Researchers used data from 915 sources, mostly surveys and censuses, gathered between 1953 and 2013. The experience of countries varied widely but the research found that women are now more educated than men in 87 countries, including nearly all the rich ones.

“These findings are not surprising, but the magnitude is impressive,” says Stuart Duffin, One Family Director of Policy & Programmes. “They clearly justify what One Family has been saying for a long time – that one of the investments we need to make is women’s education and this must be supported by wrap-around, affordable childcare.”

A lack of accessible and affordable childcare in Ireland remains one of the greatest barriers to women parenting alone being able to return to education, or employment, as highlighted in One Family’s ongoing 10 Solutions campaign. One Family provides free childcare in its on-site crèche for parents participating in its learning programmes. It offers education in three main areas: parenting skills for lone parents and those sharing parenting; welfare to work initiatives such as the 20 week New Futures programme; and accredited training for professionals working with lone parent families and families in transition – the flagship Positive Parenting and Family Communications programmes.

“We’re going from a world that was heavily dominated by male educational attainment to one where women are becoming more educated than men,” Stuart Duffin further observed. “The long-term social implications of that are pretty intriguing and are important for Ireland’s economic and social development.”

About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to those working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 622 212, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes the Family Day Festival, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today, with 10,000 people attending in 2013 ( For further information, visit

Available for Interview

Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 414 8511