The social and relational meaning of child support



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In this Thesis, I investigate the social meaning of child support payments for members of separated families. Drawing on 21 interviews with members of separated families, I explore how payments from one parent to another shape family relationships. I focus on three main topics: how child support payments are different from other forms of money in the ways that they are discussed, earmarked and spent; what child support payments reveal about cultural expectations of motherhood and fatherhood; and how respondents regard the fairness and efficacy of state child support policy. I argue that child support payments reinforce class and gender inequality. Child support reifies mothers’ disproportionate responsibility for children and uneven child support enforcement further subjects the poor to the coercive power of the state.