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October 2022Vol. 23, No. 8Study Explores Coping Strategies of Mothers With Few Economic Resources

An exploratory study from the Urban Institute aimed to increase understanding of the supports that mothers with few economic resources use to provide for their families. The study examined the range of positive, active coping mechanisms that women with children under the age of 5 with few economic resources use to address caregiving challenges, including formal and informal supports and strategies, and whether community-based organizations can facilitate mothers’ positive, active coping strategies. 


The study promoted a participant-centered perspective by utilizing a pool of 20 interviewees and a social network analysis approach. Using a series of research questions about coping mechanisms, caregiving challenges, and community-based organization supports, researchers gathered information about the positive, active strategies mothers with very young children and few economic resources used to meet their caregiving and related needs.


The following were the key findings:


  • Mothers with few economic resources often use several positive and creative coping strategies.
  • While the mothers were resilient, many were on the verge of crises, such as homelessness.
  • Food, health, child care, and housing benefits were present but sporadic. Most mothers struggled to afford rent and child care.
  • Government assistance was often not the primary coping strategy.
  • Conditions out of the family's control often created unique challenges.

The report concludes with recommendations for strategies that fill the gaps in the support networks of these women. This includes partnering women with organizations that offer service integration and navigation support, which can be especially helpful to women balancing several complex resources. The report also recommends supports that address mental health care.

For more information, read the report, Understanding Coping Strategies of Mothers With Low Income: How Organizations Can Reduce Isolation and Improve Supports.