This literature review represents the first stage of a research project, commissioned by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), which explored the experiences of lone parents seeking and moving into work in a context of increasing benefit conditionality and welfare reform. The objective was to review the literature on lone parents, with a particular focus on demographic trends including changing household structures, inequalities (e.g. social, economic, health, gender),contemporary discourse (e.g. public, media, political) and policy responses. This review presents a structured critique of both published peer‐reviewed literature and grey literature, identified from a range of databases and published sources.