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Keywords:

  • coping;
  • depressive symptoms;
  • single mothers;
  • stress;
  • welfare

ABSTRACT Objective: Single mothers, especially those on social assistance, report significantly more depressive symptoms than the general public. This article examines the relationships among employment status, stressful life events, and depressive symptoms among single mothers, with a special focus on the potential mediating and moderating roles of coping repertoire.

Design: Cross-sectional survey design.

Sample: Ninety-six single mothers (48 employed and 48 single mothers on social assistance) who were the primary caregiver for at least 1 child 4–18 years old.

Measurements: Mailed questionnaires that included an adapted version of the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, the Coping Strategy Inventory, and the Beck Depression Inventory, 2nd ed. were completed by study participants.

Results: Coping repertoire did not mediate the relationship between either employment status or stress exposure and depressive symptoms. Coping had an antagonistic and differential moderating effect on the association between employment status and depressive symptoms for employed single mothers and mothers receiving social assistance.

Conclusion: Effective strategies aimed at promoting single mothers' mental health need to address both the severity of depressive symptoms found among single mothers, and the social-system factors that threaten single mothers' psychological well-being. The implications for practice and policy are discussed.