What is the Average Age of a Single Mother?

One of the hardest things about being a single mum is the stigma attached to the title. Media portrayals of single mothers have for decades been largely negative (see my ‘Single Mother Project’ series on on-screen single mother characters). For many, the phrase ‘single mum’ immediately evokes an image of a young, teenage mother, alone after an unplanned pregnancy, but the reality is quite different. So, what is the average age of a single mother in the UK and beyond?

The average age of a single mum in the UK

Single mums in the UK have an average age of 38. So the common image of a teen mum is not very accurate at all. 

Read more statistics about single mums in the UK here. 

Single mothers around the world

How does this compare to other countries? Perhaps the young single mum image comes from elsewhere? Across Europe, the average age of single mothers is similar to the UK, with both France, Spain and Italy all having the same average age of 38-39 for single mums. 

In the United States, the average age of single mothers is also 38 years old. This is younger than the average age of single fathers in the US, who are 45 years old on average. In Brazil, single mothers tend to be older, with the average age of 43 years old. 

Globally, the data shows that single parenthood predominantly affects mothers. Around 90% of single parents are women, with the proportion of single fathers remaining at around 10% for over a decade.

Young single mums

So what about the teen mums, they must exist, right? Actually, less than 1% of single parents are teenagers aged 16-19 years. 

No two families are the same

Single parent families are just as diverse as any other family set-up. The average age of a single mother should not be surprising, because it’s just a few years older than the average age of a first-time mother, and separation/relationship breakdown is the most common reason for entering single motherhood. The average age of a first-time mother in the UK is 30.9 (correct at time of writing), so if you assume separation takes place at some point in those first 18 years, the average age of 39 makes sense. But equally, there are multiple routes into single motherhood, that can come at any time of life. From adoption to bereavement, to solo motherhood via IVF, single parent families come in all shapes and sizes. The stereotypical image of a single mum, whether related to age, socioeconomic status, behaviour, appearance or any other characteristic, should always be challenged. The sole thing that groups single mothers is that they are, full or part-time, the sole head of a family, and raising their children alone. The stigma attached to single motherhood causes unnecessary shame, which should be replaced with pride.  


Photo by Felipe Salgado on Unsplash

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