Being a parent is never an easy task not mentioning as single parent. The stress level of being single mother in Hong Kong is rarely known as limited research done. There are 56,545 single mothers out of 73,428 single parents in Hong Kong (Department, 2018).With tremendous proportion of single mothers in Hong Kong, the mentioned issue should be concerned. Therefore, the study tends to raise the awareness to the public especially the single parents and the social welfare professionals about the situation and facilitate the early intervention.
Single mothers may encounter much more challenges as they are the sole adults in the family leads them experience higher chronic stress level. They may easily suffer from depression that commonly lasts 12 months than the mothers in 2-parent family. (John Cairney, Michael Boyle, David R. Offord, Yvonne Racine, 2003). Moreover, anxiety disorder commonly occurred comparing with all kinds of mental health tests results among single parent compared with mother in 2-parent family (Lipman, E. L., Offord, D. R. & Boyle, M. H., 1997). Almost a decade later, a study also noted that
the rate of single mothers consulting mental health professionals was much higher than married women. (Wang, 2004). Another recent study in 2019 revealed that almost 37% single mothers experienced general stress which is twice than mother in 2-parent family (Linda A. Liang,Ursula Berger,Christian Brand, 2019). In sum, the health level of single mothers is worth concerning.
Definition of Single Mother
Single mothers and their children comprise as single-parent family most often. Most likely they are separated with partners, raising children on their own without marriage, divorce and husband was dead. These criteria are accounted for single parenthood (Department, 2018).
Definition of Stress
The Lazarus’ Psychological Stress theory comparing with the theory of Systemic stress by Selye is more comprehensive in application of human as the Systemic stress theory based on animal observation rather than human beings. The Stress and Coping Theory emphasis stress as a relational concept, like a relationship between individuals and the environment. It is different from stimulating by the external world or someone’s physiological arrangement, behaviors and personal responds. Stress may occur when someone experiences unique and crucial issues interacting with the environment that is beyond his or her coping skills to handle. It may threat someone’s mental health. (Lazarus and Folkman 1986, p. 63) .This transaction within the person and environment called cognitive appraisal and coping becoming the definition two central mediators’ processes. So the stress level is subjective to everyone.
Definition of Major Depressive Disorder
It is well known that depression, as well as named major depressive disorder, can be commonly seen and significant illness nowadays that influencing your feelings, thinking patterns and reactions in a bad way. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Moreover, there are some symptoms must be experiencing in order to determine whether someone is suffering from it. Experiencing the symptoms either depressive mood or have no interest or pleasure among things during two weeks are crucial for diagnose. Apart from that, there are numbers of symptoms to identify depression. First of all, nearly feeling depressed all day long, like a everyday routine. Secondly, significantly decreased attentiveness or happiness in major activities for all day long, like a everyday routine.
Thirdly, losing notable weight not because of on a diet or gaining weight, as well as notable change of appetite, like lessened or consumed a lot. Fourthly, can be observed by other that thinking become very slow and less body movement, not only personal feelings of unease. Fifthly, feeling exhausted or low energy level almost daily. Sixthly, strong feelings among unsuitable guilt and worth nothing almost daily. Seventhly, decreased capability on thinking or focus, or inconclusiveness, almost daily. Eighthly, repeated dying thoughts, repeated ideas with no plans on suicide, or trying to suicide or a concrete plan for carrying out suicide. Last but not least, when a person is influenced by the symptoms and result in sever clinical impacts, he or she may be suffering from depression.(American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Definition of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
It is usual for individual to feel nervous or anxious but anxiety disorder means experiencing overwhelmed fear and anxiety irrationally from time to time out of control.
In this study, general anxiety disorder is the main research element and if the individual’s daily routine is facing continuous and too much distress, that would also be the research target group. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
With the stigma and labeling as a single mother in the Chinese cultural society, the stress level and mental health status may differ to the Western Society which leads to more deteriorating situation. Therefore, there are three objectives of the study:1) assess the single mothers’ stress level 2) assess the single mothers’ scores of major depressive disorder and 3) assess the single mothers’ scores of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
The researcher employed quantitative method using three major questionnaires named National Stressful Events Survey Acute Stress Disorder Short Scale (NSESSS), the Patient Health Questionnaire–9 (PHQ-9), for measuring depression and anxiety level. The latest questionnaire version was created and modified by American Psychiatric Association in 2013.
This study sample includes Female resident in Hong Kong aged 16-plus who separated and/or divorced and/or widowed and having at least 1 child out of marriage. Stratified sampling and convenience sampling will be used firstly separate the target group into Female then using convenience sampling to reach the strata for recruitment. Sample size should be around 5,000 targets out of the total number of single mothers in Hong Kong.
The questionnaire is mainly composed by closed-ended questions via a face to face interview. A cross-sectional data will be conducted.
Major measuring instrument
The respondents have to report their subjective feelings on personal experiences and point of views with the index as mentioned above which were developed by DSM-5.
For Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the level of severity shows by the total scores, the higher the score, the more serious level of anxiety. The highest score is 40. The level is rating by 5-point scale(0 means never, 1 means sometimes, 2 means half of the time, 3 means very often, 4 means always.).
Moreover, National Stressful Events Survey Acute Stress Disorder Short Scale (NSESSS) also rates 5-point scale to determine the level of stress. (0 means never, 1 means sometimes, 2 means half of the time, 3 means very often, 4 means all of the time.) The highest score is 28, the higher the score, the more serious level of stress.
For the Patient Health Questionnaire–9 (PHQ-9) for Severity Measure for Depression , 4-point scale is used.(0 means never, 1 means a few days, 2 means very frequent during daytime, 3 means almost every day). The lowest score is 0 while the highest score is 27. The higher the score, the more serious level of depression.