This paper explores the implications, for the measured prevalence and duration of mother-only families, of marked changes in nonmarital fertility, unmarried cohabitation, and homeleaving and re-entry. Throughout, estimates are compared on the basis of marital definitions and definitions including cohabitation. The duration of the first single-parent spell appears to have increased under the marital definition, but declines substantially when cohabitations are taken into account. A substantial proportion of single mothers have spent some time as single parents while in their parents’ household. Hence we argue that definitions of single-parent families must be based on living arrangements rather than on the parents’ marital status.

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