In China premarital sex has traditionally been discouraged and often punished, even today single motherhood can be hard for people to accept. But with more Chinese women in this position, the issue has slowly begun to enter the public arena.
"Single mothers are encountering problems with money, housing and educating their children. They need more help," said Zhang Xiaomei, a political adviser now attending the Third Sessions of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing.
Unlike in America, where organizations like Planned Parenthood present other options to mothers, traditional Chinese views can make single mothers feel embarrassed and helpless. An unmarried woman with a child can be a constant source for rumors and gossip.
"Having a baby without a husband could have ruined a girl's life, causing problems with furthering her study, having a successful career and so on," Chang Yuling, a teacher from Beijing No. 11 Middle School, said.
A survey by the Shenyang City government in 2005 showed that 57.3 percent of single parent families faced economic difficulties, and 43 percent of single parent families had monthly incomes below 300 yuan (1 yuan is equal to US$0.15). Most of these families were headed by single mothers and they often had much lower living standards than married couples.
"Besides the economic difficulties and the mothers' own problems, children of single-parent families can have psychological issues because of lack of family care," Chang told China.org.cn.
According to an investigation by relevant Chongqing municipal authorities in 2007, 30 percent of children in single-parent families have psychological problems or abnormal behaviors because of lack of family care. The survey covered 3,986 students from five local primary and junior high schools; 541 (13.7%) of them were from single-parent families.
Another issue for single mothers is housing. Single mothers often live in the homes of their own parents or rent cheap houses, which can be uncomfortable for families. Education is the most import issue for single mother families.
"Although economic and social burdens might force some single mothers to give up their children, people still should respect unmarried women's right to have babies," said CPPCC member Zhang Xiaomei.
Zhang suggested that local authorities should provide single mothers with free temporary residence, psychological help, baby care information and services and legal aids.
"In order to resolve their economic difficulties, governments should encourage more donations from enterprises, social organizations and individuals," she said. "Banks should give these mothers low interest or interest free loans."
China passed its Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women in 1992. The Population and Family Planning Law, which was adopted in December 2001, also stipulates that children of unmarried women have the same rights and should enjoy the same treatment as offspring of married women.