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SAP304 Social Research Methods

Assessment 2: Full Research Proposal (Word count 2500)

A research proposal is a written document that details and explains a proposed research project. It is important to understand that this is a proposal for a research project-it is not a research project The research proposal should be realistic and follow the following format (refer to Walter 2013, pp. 43-46 for a detailed explanation of what should be contained within each of these section headings).

  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Research aims
  • Literature review and/or background to the topic/issue Method(s)
  • Ethics
  • Timetable
  • Budget and resources required
  • Dissemination of results
  • Reference list
  • The research proposal must have a clear statement of the research topic, questions and aims and have a clear plan for how the research will be conducted.



1. Introduction

In the journey of parenthood, every child deserves a safe and nurturing space to flourish and grow and children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) are no such exception. For single mothers, caring for their child with autism is not easy and becomes more daunting. It goes beyond the normal trials of parenting where both parents take care of their child and share positive and negative outcomes. Single mothers experience isolation, endure mental turmoil and many more arising from taking care of their autistic child all alone. The circumstances resulting in single parenting status may vary; however, the dedication, as well as the strength they demonstrate, remain unmatchable (Mbamba et al., 2022). In this process, parenting stress in single mothers with an autistic child is a significant concern which needs in-depth understanding and investigation. Parenting is expensive, particularly when a single mother is investing time and effort in that disorder which requires emotional and physical support. This research proposal delves into exploring the parenting stress of single mothers while raising their children with autism in NSW(New South Wales). By unraveling their unique journey, the effort is to uncover the challenges and the kinds of stress they face while rearing their children and seek unreachable answers.

2. Problem statement

The growing number of children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a significant concern in Australia as well as overseas. Previously, the rate was about 1,211,834 and now the situation is that 1 in every 36 children in Australia is found to have such issues. In this scenario, raising a child with this disorder appears to be highly stressful for caregivers or single mothers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). It is argued by Papadopoulos (2021) that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impacts the entire family system. Parenting stress in families that have autistic children, the parent-child relationship used to be impacted. Mothers of autistic children encounter additional stressors in terms of the complexities of caring for their children with special needs. It is with continuing demand of rendering care, addressing communication difficulties, and managing behavioral challenges that result in an increased level of stress along with emotional strain for the mothers. They experience feelings of tension, guilt, and concern about their parental skills more frequently than fathers.

For single mothers, the stress level appears to raise the child with a low level of social support from the communities. Over time they face anxiety and others. Further, the stress results in exhaustion as well as decreased emotional connection between the child and the single mother (Mbamba et al., 2022). They face discrimination, stigmatisation, and others. Addressing parenting stress is crucial to support single mothers who are the only caregiver to their children and themselves and promote positive outcomes for the children with these disorders. 

3. Research Aim

The research aims to investigate the unique parenting stress faced by single mothers who have autistic children, specifically in NSW.

3.1 Research Questions

  • What is Autism Spectrum Disorder and how does it affect children’s development?
  • What kind of support is available to promote the well-being of children with ASD who are being raised by single mothers in NSW?
  • What are the factors which contribute to parenting stress among single mothers raising a child with ASD in NSW?
  • What effective measures can be applied to support Autism Spectrum Disorder in children and single mothers?

4. Literature Review

4.1. Understanding ASD in Children

According to Sehovic et al. (2020), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that typically appears in early childhood. ASD is characterized by challenges in social communication, interaction along with the presence of repetitive behaviors as well as interests. The word “spectrum” is meant for the disorder’s manifestation along with severity which differs significantly from individual to individual. On the contrary, it is opined by Simacek et al. (2020), ASD is known to be a neurological condition that affects child growth and development. ASD becomes apparent right through the first three years of life. Kids with ASD often display behaviors that make them seem disconnected from the environment. They used to show little interest in socializing with friends or families and struggle with social awareness (Christensen & Zubler, 2020).

For children with autism, communication becomes more challenging, resulting them delayed speech development and further creating difficulty in making eye contact with others. The disorder hinders social skill development. It is because a child with ASD is not able to understand the emotions and facial expressions of other people. These children are likely to play alone, do not want change in routines, and do not like to be touched (Chaidi & Drigas, 2020). A child with ASD used to have repeat movement, which begins with flapping her or his hands. They have an abnormal attachment to objects. However, few children with autism do well in music, art, or certain things. ASD in New South Wales, single mothers are facing social and cultural issues while raising their children with autism.

4.2. Challenges Faced by single mothers raising a Child with Autism

There are several challenges that single mothers face while raising a child with autism. This comes up with the financial strain (Vernhet et al., 2018). It means raising a child with ASD used to be very costly, particularly with the need for interventions, specialized therapy, and support services. In this process, single mothers used to struggle to cover these expenses on their own. A single mother finds it challenging to afford regular sessions, occupational therapy, and speech therapy for her child with ASD because of limited finances. One example can be seen in Ghana, where single mothers in this country face financial constraints in providing all care to their children. The second challenge is time constraints (Mbamba & Ndemole, 2021).

It means caring for a child with ASD often needs significant time along with attention. For a single mother, it becomes challenging balancing work commitments and daily care for her child. The third challenge is related to emotional and mental well-being. The continuous demands of raising a child with ASD take a toll on the single mother’s mental and emotional health resulting in feelings of isolation, burnout, and stress. It means a single mother feels overwhelmed as well as isolated while dealing with her child’s behavior, along with a lack of opportunities for socializing with other individuals or parents. A limited support network is another challenge for single mothers (McCafferty & McCutcheon, 2020). Single mothers used to lack a strong network to learn as well as have guidance while managing the complexities of raising a child with this kind of disorder. About the challenges the single mother faces in Australia or New South Wales as social support. These mothers find it difficult to manage complexities that are brought from society.

4.3. Availability of a support system for ASD in Children

Children with autism are identified in NSW via routinely gathered data from interaction with support services and healthcare. These services involve publicly funded disability, hospital admissions, and mental health visits. Following are the illustration of initiatives that are available for helping children overcome disorders.

  1. NSW Government Initiatives

The NSW government offers a wide range of support services for individuals with disabilities.

  • NSW Health: It gives diagnostic services along with early intervention therapy for ASD suffering, ensuring timely assessment and medications.
  • Department of Family & community services: It offers as well as funds several support services for people with individuals. These kinds of services involve early intervention programs, post-school programs, respite care, and others (Roth, 2013).
  • ASD-Specific Initiatives: DFCS has introduced targeted initiatives particularly tailored to individuals with ASD. These involve early intervention services, the development of ASD-specific childcare centers in Western Sydney, and flexible funding packages to support children with this disorder.
  • Federal Government Initiatives

Australian Federal Government introduced the HCWA package, which is known as Helping Children with Autism, in 2008, which received funding of over $ 190 million for 4 years. The chief feature of HVWA has appeared to be that children, when diagnosed with ASD before six years, may be able to access $12000 funds in early intervention support over 2 years from authorised service providers (Roth, 2013). Other kinds of components of the package involve: Autism advisors around Australia to render information along with support for parents after assessment. Secondly, Medicare rebates for ASD diagnosis along with visits to allied health professionals. An ASD website renders helpful resources along with information.

4.4. Gaps in Support

Though the initiatives have been taken, there were several gaps identified, such as a lack of tailored ASD programs, the transition process from diagnosis to therapy, personalized and localized information, case management, and more (Roth, 2013). Presently, there is a dire need for the government to come up with effective initiatives to help single mothers manage the complexity of autism in their children.

4.5. Literature gap

Several pieces of literature have been reviewed about the concept of ASD and its impact on children’s development. The challenges faced by single mothers and the initiatives taken to overcome such issues, however, limited information about single mothers that have been facing issues while raising their children has been explored for NSW. Further, there is no detailed explanation of parenting stress made for single mothers, particularly in NSW. What kind of support systems are available and to what extent they have benefited is not discussed in the existing literature, and thus, the insufficient information on these aspects makes it very tough to reach any conclusion. Such as the needs of single mothers and what kind of financial support they need to raise their children. The kind of impact the issue has on children’s development and others. The lack of this knowledge ensures further investigation to acknowledge the intervention that can be given to these mothers and improve the well-being of their children who are suffering from autism.

5. Methods

To research the chosen premises, qualitative research will be considered over quantitative under the primary data collection method. The instrument that will be used to extract information is the interview and further analysis of data will be done using thematic analysis. These approaches align well with the nature of the research that needs an in-depth understanding of the challenges, perceptions, and experiences faced by single mothers who have autistic children.

5.1. Qualitative method

As opined by Yilmaz (2013), qualitative research is used to necessitate an appropriate portrayal of the empirical social world which exists, contemplating the viewpoints over the predefined standpoint or imagination. On the contrary, it is opined to Bacon-Shone (2013), quantitative research involves gathering information in numerical form. It is a fast scientific, focused, and relatable method that makes it possible to analyze the data quickly (Darlington & Scott, 2002). However, the qualitative method provides the researcher with the flexibility to achieve an in-depth analysis of individuals’ lives in a natural setting (Watkins & Gioia, 2015). Therefore, it will be applied to have a comprehensive understanding of the issues the single mother faces when she identifies that her children have developed autism. Incorporating this qualitative method will permit the participant’s perspective exploration without imposing pre-identified categories, rendering a more detailed and nuanced account of their lived experiences.

5.2. Interview

Interviews will be performed with single mothers in NSW that have children who develop autism. The respondent will be 10 – 12 in number. The reason for choosing this instrument is to understand single mothers’ life experiences from her point of view. The interview procedures will involve open-ended questions to encourage participants to share their feelings, thoughts, and experiences about their parenting stress. It means this particular method is suitable for the sensitive topic and ensures the researcher achieves a comprehensive understanding of the perspective of the participants. Since this research deals with sensitive topics such as parenting stress and autism, this process interview will create a supportive and safe environment for the participants to express their feelings openly.

5.3. Approaches to Interview

According to William (2013), there are three approaches to conducting interviews such as unstructured interviews, semi-structured interviews, and structured interviews. Each has different use and flexibility. In this research, structured interviews will be performed wherein a structured one-type questionnaire will be used to gather information.

5.4. Data analysis

Thematic analysis will be applied in this research permitting the identification of recurring patterns and recurring themes in data. The researcher will be able to explore the themes in detail, assisting in unraveling complex factors which contribute to parenting stress in single mothers. It is by identifying and analyzing recurring themes this particular research will make a worthy contribution to the existing knowledge and further inform the establishment of targeted support strategies as well as interventions to help these mothers in their parenting journey and make their life a successful one.

6. Ethics

According to Neuman (1997), the research achieves novelty when the research is performed with honesty, integrity, confidentiality, and taking all the measures such as informed consent and protection of participants and others. It is essential to increase the reliability and validity of the research. Therefore, in this research, all these measures will be taken where informed consent will be obtained from the research participants before performing interviews. Individuals will be purely informed about the research benefits, research objectives, potential risks, what the participation entails, and others. The informed consent will be distinct and easily understandable, ensuring every participant may make an informed decision about involvement in the research.

Participants will have the right to withdraw from the research without repercussion at any time. Further, participation protection will be ensured. Given the sensitive topic, particular attention will be rendered to safeguard vulnerable participants, for example elderly, children, and the disabled. Care will be taken while achieving informed consent from these groups. In terms of confidentiality and anonymity, the personal information and identities of participants will be kept confidential. Participants’ codes or Pseudonyms will be utilized to ensure anonymity in reporting or concluding the findings. Lastly, the focus will be made to minimize harm. If any participants demonstrate distress, appropriate resources will be offered to them.

7. Timetable

8. Budget and Resources Required

Since this method will opt to gather information through interviews, there will require funding of around $20,000 to cover the expenses in association with participants’ recruitment, transcription services, and travel expenses for conducting a face-to-face interview. The budget will also allocate resources for research findings involving publication fees and conference presentations.

9. Dissemination of Results

The findings of the research will be disseminated via several channels to reach relevant stakeholders and further contribute to the existing body of knowledge. Dissemination avenues will involve peer-reviewed journals, academic conferences, community engagement sessions, and others. In this process, an effort will be made to ensure the study reaches policymakers, organizations, NGOs, and service providers who are working with single mothers having autistic children to ensure they have support programs and policies in the future.

Overall, it is by adhering to ethical principles as well as employing qualitative interviews that this study aims to depict a picture of the unique parenting stress faced by single mothers while raising their autistic children in NSW and render worthy insights to develop targeted support interventions in the long run.


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