A Psychosociological Analysis of the Pathologies of Worth
: An Exploration of Lone Parent Entrepreneurship in the UK

  • Tammy Mudd

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study explored how entrepreneurship was used as a means of establishing a sense of self-worth in the UK Lone Parent demographic. The lone parents studied realised their ambitions to achieve self-worth by enacting their entrepreneurial aspirations in ways meaningful to their lived experiences. Both 'sm-othered' and 'm-othered' by societal constructions of self-worth, these lone parents were motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic forces, as they negotiated the tensions of achieving 'goodness' in their entrepreneurial and parental identities. This is despite being stigmatised in both domains. The often harsh, contradictory expectations of society at large, and those closest to them often left the participants battling numerous psychosocial pathologies of worth. Despite this, they still aspired to achieving the rewards that are perceived to come with being a successful entrepreneur, both in the eyes of the others, and in a bid to enhance their self-identity.
A review of the extant literature revealed an absence of reference to this demographic group. Therefore, their lived experiences and individual needs are underexplored in the context of more established patterns of entrepreneurial behaviour, not only at an individual level, but also at a collective one.
Using data collected from 20 lone parent entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom, the study was qualitative in nature, and used a snowball sampling approach to engage with participants. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore the lived experiences of the participants, allowing them to reflect upon their own journey and also to consider whether their efforts were worth it, for them.
The study revealed that in the majority of cases, the lone parents themselves were not the only ones searching for self-worth and validation, but, as demonstrated through their narratives, so were their own parents. Theoretical and practical implications were identified.
From the perspective of human nature, the lone parents in this study were seeking validation for themselves and their choices; entrepreneurship was a vehicle for attaining it. This shines a different light on the motivational power of entrepreneurship that may be extendable to groups with similar characteristics. From a policy perspective, the data underpinned the belief that, despite intensive activation policies, little has been achieved in terms of eradicating the sources of persistent poverty in this growing demographic. Providing meaningful assistance to lone parents serves multiple purposes; supporting them in their choice to enact entrepreneurship as a flexible means to not only provide for their families, but also to realise their ambitions to restore their spoilt identities. Therefore, understanding the motivations of this group, interventions may be considered to allow entrepreneurship to fulfil a more meaningful role in society.
The thesis explores the behaviour of lone parents and the pathologies of their enactments of entrepreneurship and how they utilised it as a device through which to realise their self-worth. It also offers a nuanced perspective of Self-Determination Theory to fit this demographic, by proposing an alternative framework through which those in this and other disadvantaged groups may explore their own experiences and motivations in engaging in entrepreneurship. As a result of this investigation, this thesis offers implications for policy and practice in terms of how lone parents, and others like them, can be effectively supported when seeking and sustaining an entrepreneurial career path.
Date of Award6 Feb 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorJoan Lockyer (Supervisor) & Paul Jones (Supervisor)


  • disadvantaged entrepreneurship,
  • stigma entrepreneurship
  • lone parents
  • poverty
  • economic enactment
  • self-worth
  • psychosociological pathologies
  • entrepreneurial ostracism
  • belongingness
  • identity
  • self-determination
  • parental goodness
  • m-othering
  • sm-othering
  • knowing

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