Sara McLanahan, who studied single motherhood, dies at age 81

dr. Garfinkel said the results of the Fragile Families study “do not support the culture of poverty thesis,” which argues that different values ​​and behaviors among the poor keep them trapped in self-perpetuating cycles of deprivation. He previously said that “circumstances and opportunities,” not differences in value, have the biggest impact.

Though her findings confused some single mom advocates, Dr. McLanahan continues to publish books and articles on the subject.

“We reject the argument that people should not talk about the negative consequences of single motherhood for fear of stigmatizing single mothers and their children,” wrote Dr. McLanahan and researcher Gary Sandefur in their 1994 book, “Growing Up With a Single Parent: “What Hurts, What Helps.” “While we appreciate the compassion behind this position, we disagree with the bottom line. In fact, we believe not talking about these issues can do more harm than good.”

Sara Frances Smith was born on December 27, 1940 in Tyler, Texas. Her father, Norman Smith, was the general manager of a local oil company. Her mother, Iredell (Brown) Smith, was a homemaker.

She attended Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, now known as Tyler Legacy High School. A gifted pianist, she spent a summer studying at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. She attended Bennett Junior College in Irvington, NY, and attended Smith College. After working for Smith for a year, she retired in 1962 and married Ellery McLanahan. They had three children, Sara, Ellery and Anna Bell, all of whom survive her. The family moved to Houston and the couple divorced in 1972.

dr. McLanahan returned to school and graduated from the University of Houston in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She received her master’s and doctorate in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.

She began her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin in 1979. There she met Dr. Garfinkel and focused her research on single motherhood. (She had avoided the topic in her doctoral dissertation at the University of Texas because, she said, it felt too close to home.) She and Dr. Garfinkel married in 1982.

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