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10 Old Grimsbury Rd, Banbury OX16 3HG, UK

SAP304 Social Research Methods

Assessment 1: Stage One of Research Proposal (25%)
Due Week 5
Word count: 1100 words
The goal of this assessment is for students to commence their documentation of their RESEARCH PROPOSAL

  • Choose a Research Topic and discuss it in the tutorial.
  • Create a TITLE and a Research Rationale (40 words);
    ⚫ Document Research Introduction and Aim (approximately 150 words each)
    ⚫ Document Literature Review (approximately 900 words)
    PLEASE NOTE: This will be marked by your Lecturer/tutor and should be re-written for your final submission of your RESEARCH PROPOSAL, integrating the feedback you were provided.
    This written assessment must be submitted via Turnitin and must adhere to the College’s academic integrity and authorship requirements. Use APA 7 referencing, where applicable.


Research Title: Stress associated with raising an autistic child among single mothers in NSW

Research Rationale: To understand whether autistic children in New South Wales (especially those who are brought up by single mothers) are getting enough parenting facilities or not.


Parenting can be difficult and expensive especially for single mothers because after the pandemic the cost of living has gone even further up. While most of the parents are able to provide a quality lifestyle to their children in New South Wales, the stress is immense. Parenting comes with a lot of responsibility and it becomes an extra burden when only one of the parents has to fulfill the duties of both. In an interview, many mothers have expressed the hurdles they have faced while raising a child with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Most of them have stated that they have received very low levels of social support from the community and over time they have developed severe levels of depression and anxiety because of that.

The aim of this research is to understand whether the current social systems are making it easier for single mothers to raise an autistic child in the economy and provide an outline of the factors that actually raise the anxiety levels of such single mothers.

Literature Review

Reasons behind the elevated levels of stress among the primary caregivers

According to the results of the study conducted by Keenan, Newman, and Grey (2016), the parents of autistic children experience elevated levels of stress because of their child’s uncomfortably regarding attachment and expression. For a detailed analysis, the researchers have considered inputs from 24 participants (Autistic children and their mothers). Every one of these children was significantly high-functioning and within the age range of 7 and 14. The primary caregivers of these children were provided with an opportunity to vent out to which they have stated that they find it difficult to bond with their children because of their difference in attachment styles and this has spiked certain levels of psychological distress and attachment-related anxiety among them.

Autistic spectrum disorder: Overview

Autistic spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder and now it has become very common among children (one of the primary reasons behind this is that people were not interested in mental health studies. Now that they are, these problems are getting diagnosed more frequently.) This disorder is caused by differences in the brain and it can interfere with a child’s ability to perform normal functions in day-to-day life. Some children find it difficult to engage themselves in social communication while others show a lack of interest in almost everything. Another common trait of ASD is repetitive behavior. However, recent studies have shown that children diagnosed with ASD have shown more efficiency in different cognitive behaviors such as learning, moving, and creativity (Lord et al., 2020).

Comparing the stress levels of a single mother raising an autistic child with a coupled mother raising an autistic child in NSW.

According to the studies conducted by May, Fletcher, Dempsey, and Newman (2015), co-parenting quality can be linked with parenting stress and parenting self-efficiency. To back up this fact, the researchers have collected primary data from families living in NSW having at least one autistic child in their family. The results show that both single mothers and single fathers and in fact, autistic children receiving the care of both parents have faced similar problems – elevated levels of stress. These heightened stress levels in many ways have negatively impacted their parenting efficiency, which has led to poor quality co-parenting.

The study conducted by McAuliffe, Cordier, Vaz, and Thomas (2017) compares the stress levels of single mothers raising an autistic child with that of the stress levels of a couple raising an autistic child. In the study, various factors have been taken into account, such as quality of life, coping styles, time management, and overall stress levels. To conduct a detailed study, primary data has been used and the data has been sourced from 43 single mothers and 164 coupled mothers. It is undeniable that employment status and household income play an important role in determining the levels of stress in the household but the results have provided a deeper insight. According to the results of the study, coupled mothers were 1.73 times more likely to be in control of the situation (developing a coping style) and 1.05 times less likely to report lower levels of environmental QoL.

Problems with the social system that piles on the problem

The study conducted by Lilley (2015) deals with the problems faced by students diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder while changing their schools in NSW. For research purposes, eight narratives of single mothers have been considered. Based on this it can be stated that children were unable to adapt to the new school environment because of their differences in attachment styles and this has given rise to elevated levels of stress among the parents. The researchers have suggested introducing a more inclusive education system which makes it easier for autistic children to adapt to the new school.

The study conducted by Allen, Williams, and Hutchins (2007) evaluates the sensitivity of the social communication questionnaire (SCQ) for children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). To back up the results of the study, primary data has been collected from 81 parents who are currently parenting autistic children. The results have stated that the sensitivity and specificity of SCQ were quite low. Hence, it should not be considered a valid tool.

According to the study conducted by Westwood and Graham (2003), even teachers have faced difficulties teaching autistic children simply because their educational system was not inclusive. This has indirectly projected a keen sense of psychological stress on the parents of those children. Based on the primary data, it can be stated that most of the teachers have expressed a need for special education to help them help children with disabilities.

Mbamba, Yeboaa, and Ndemole (2022) have dedicated their study to understanding the challenges single mothers in general face while nurturing their autistic child. The study has provided a clear outline of the opportunities and barriers in raising a child with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). The findings of the study dictated that the social support programs have helped a lot in coping with their stress levels.

The study conducted by Gombok, Zadeh and Irmie (2016) stated that the psychological adjustment between an autistic child and a single parent takes a lot of time and a lot of patience on the parent’s end. It can be extremely tiring as the difficulties regarding the attachment differences pile on the existing stress levels creating a very challenge for the mothers. In this aspect, it must also be mentioned that the child’s gender also plays an important role. It acts as an important factor in evaluating the reasons behind heightened levels of stress among single mothers.


Allen, C. W., Silove, N., Williams, K., & Hutchins, P. (2007). Validity of the social communication questionnaire in assessing risk of autism in preschool children with developmental problems. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 37, 1272-1278.

Golombok, S., Zadeh, S., Imrie, S., Smith, V., & Freeman, T. (2016). Single mothers by choice: Mother–child relationships and children’s psychological adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(4), 409.

Keenan, B. M., Newman, L. K., Gray, K. M., & Rinehart, N. J. (2016). Parents of children with ASD experience more psychological distress, parenting stress, and attachment-related anxiety. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 46, 2979-2991.

Lilley, R. (2015). Trading places: Autism inclusion disorder and school change. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 19(4), 379-396.

Lord, C., Brugha, T. S., Charman, T., Cusack, J., Dumas, G., Frazier, T., … & Veenstra-VanderWeele, J. (2020). Autism spectrum disorder. Nature reviews Disease primers, 6(1), 1-23.

May, C., Fletcher, R., Dempsey, I., & Newman, L. (2015). Modeling relations among coparenting quality, autism-specific parenting self-efficacy, and parenting stress in mothers and fathers of children with ASD. Parenting, 15(2), 119-133.

Mbamba, C. R., Yeboaa, P. A., & Ndemole, I. K. (2022). Autistic children in the care of single mothers: opportunities and barriers to safeguarding the welfare of special needs children. Vulnerable children and youth studies, 1-12.

Westwood, P., & Graham, L. (2003). Inclusion of students with special needs: Benefits and obstacles perceived by teachers in New South Wales and South Australia. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 8(1), 3-15.

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