The papers share a common focus on the incomes of sole parents and the relation between income support and paid employment, but differ in approach and methodology. Julia Perry's paper is based on a comparative study of the social policy arrangements affecting labour force participation by sole parents in the countries of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The research is the work of an international team of officers in the government departments of the various countries. It utilises an institutional approach comparing policy instruments and their effects. Deborah Mitchell's research utilises statistical analysis to examine the outcomes of sole parent policies in a number of the same countries. Using data from the Luxembourg Income Study, Mitchell compares the circumstances of sole parents, analysing the incidence of poverty and participation in paid employment. Bettina Cass addresses the same issues from yet a third perspective. In a larger project, she is examining the way in which the caring work of sole parenthood is supported in four countries having different types of social policy regime. Her concern is with theory development and the way in which women's work is represented in arguments about the development of the welfare state. The paper presented here addresses issues in the theoretical underpinnings of comparative work on gender, sole parenthood and the welfare state.