Poll finds single mothers seen as detrimental

WASHINGTON — Even as they’ve grown more comfortable with same-sex or unmarried couples raising children, most Americans still view single mothers as detrimental to society, according to a new poll of attitudes toward the country’s soaring number of nontraditional families.

Most types of nontraditional families are broadly accepted or at least tolerated, including same-sex couples with kids, unmarried parents and childless women, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends.

But two decades after TV’s Murphy Brown caused a public furor by having a child without a husband around, many people still draw the line when it comes to single motherhood.

Today nuclear families make up barely 1 in 5 households in the United States, census statistics show. And nearly 4 in 10 births are to unmarried women, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The poll asked about 2,700 people their thoughts about seven trends in modern relationships that are upending what used to be considered the traditional family: unmarried parents raising children, gay couples raising children, single mothers, partners living together outside of marriage, working mothers, interracial marriage and women who never bear children.

The poll results suggest that Americans fall largely into three equal-size camps.

Roughly a third said the trends have no impact on society or are positive.

Another third considered most of the changes harmful to society. The only trends they accepted were interracial marriage and fewer women having children.

The third group tended to accept all the changes except for single motherhood. Virtually all said the growing prevalence of mothers who have no male partners around to help them raise children is bad for society.

Study: Working moms’ children have higher risks

RALEIGH — A new study from North Carolina State University concludes that children of mothers who work outside the home have a significantly higher risk of health problems, accidents and injuries.

The study found that kids of working moms have a 200 percent increase in the risk of experiencing overnight hospitalizations, asthma episodes and injuries or poisonings.

Melinda Morrill, the N.C. State economics professor who authored the study, warned against making sweeping moral judgments against moms who work outside the home. But she notes that parenting choices involve trade-offs that must be acknowledged.

“Maternal employment imposes a burden on a mother’s time and may result in the poorer supervision or care of her children,” Morrill’s study says. “A child’s health is at least partially a function of time-intensive activities such as healthy meal preparation and house cleaning.”

Morrill’s research looked at 89,000 kids ages 7-17, examining 20 years of data from the federal National Health Interview Survey.

Morrill’s research runs counter to previous studies that have shown that children of working moms have improved health.

Those studies have said that kids of working moms benefit from increased income, from better health insurance options and from a boost in the mother’s self-esteem.

Danica Patrick briefly leads at Daytona race

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For a few laps, at least, Danica Patrick’s day was going better than most people imagined: She was racing for the lead at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick briefly led Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide race at Daytona, becoming the first woman to lead a lap in a NASCAR sanctioned race at the speedway. But she couldn’t stay there.

Still relatively inexperienced in stock car racing, Patrick struggled when it was her turn to be the pushing car in the two-car style of drafting that has dominated Daytona Speedweeks.

Unable to consistently team up with a drafting partner, she faded in the middle of the race and finished 14th, the best finish of the IndyCar series regular’s brief Nationwide career.

“I pushed a little bit at the end, a little too late,” Patrick said. “But it was really cool when Clint (Bowyer) was pushing me and they told me that I did lead a lap, at least. That was really cool. But that just showed me that that’s what you’ve got to do, and that’s what they were doing up front today.”

As she gains experience in NASCAR, Patrick says she’ll earn more respect from fellow drivers and have an easier time drafting.

Report criticizes U.S. for lack of maternal leave

NEW YORK — Americans often take pride in ways their nation differs from others. But one distinction, lack of a nationwide policy of paid maternity leave, is cited in a new report as an embarrassment that could be redressed at low cost and without harm to employers.

“Despite its enthusiasm about ‘family values,’ the U.S. is decades behind other countries in ensuring the well-being of working families,” said Janet Walsh, deputy director of the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. “Being an outlier is nothing to be proud of in a case like this.”

The report, “Failing its Families,” says at least 178 countries have national laws guaranteeing paid leave for new mothers, while the handful of exceptions include the U.S., Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. More than 50 nations, including most Western countries, also guarantee paid leave for new fathers.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act enables workers with new children or seriously ill family members to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. By excluding companies with fewer than 50 employees, it covers only about half the work force, and many who are covered cannot afford to take unpaid leave.

In the European Union, paid parental leave varies from 14 weeks in Malta to 16 months in Sweden, which reserves at least two months of its leave exclusively for fathers.

Most EU countries have maintained the provisions of their programs despite the recession.