What strategies do homeless mothers use to cope with their situations? In-depth interviews in Kentucky of 68 homeless mothers with children revealed similarities and differences among the women, as well as a con tinuum of approaches to gender relations. Although differing in race/ethnicity and place of origin (rural vs. urban) among other factors, the overwhelming majority of the women experienced unstable and abusive households and social relationships while growing up. Most did not complete high school and had their first births while still teenagers. Moreover, two primary approaches to gender relations were observed. These approaches delimit a continuum along which women with a matrifocal worldview tended to perceive themselves as the primary agents in their own and their children's lives. Women with a patrifocal worldview tended to see a man as their provider and as the solution to their crises. These two different discourses tended to be independent of region (rural or urban) and race/ethnicity. The study of these two discourses provides new theoretical insights into the social relations and behavior of homeless mothers and should contribute in developing programs for their assistance.

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