Genealogy of the lone parent

K.W. Chan, Fung Yi Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Lone parent families are often portrayed as welfare-dependent, and social policies and social services can be hostile to and discriminating against lone parents especially in societies dominated by traditional familism, such as Hong Kong. This resentment of lone parent families has not been present throughout Hong Kong's history, but has arisen over the past decade. This paper is based on a study that traced the changing discourses of the lone parent family in Hong Kong. Adopting the Foucauldian concept of genealogy of knowledge and inspired by Nancy Fraser and Linda Gordon's work on "genealogy of dependency", we trace the discourses of the lone parent family from the 1970s to the early 21st century. The term "lone parent" did not exist before the mid-1980s, and when it first appeared it was closely associated with vulnerability and charity. In the early 21st century, the lone parent discourse developed into a problematic discourse, with lone parents associated with welfare dependency, social security fraud, juvenile delinquency, family violence, and perceived as a threat to social stability. This paper notes that the "success" of this discourse may help to rationalize the cutting back of social security benefits for lone mothers and regulate welfare recipients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalThe Hong Kong journal of social work (香港社會工作學報)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Discourses
  • gender
  • Hong Kong
  • lOne parent
  • Social security


Dive into the research topics of 'Genealogy of the lone parent'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this