How Does Single Parents’ Living Status Affect Their Daily Coping Strategies For Maintaining Mental Wellbeing

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Last updated: March 31, 2019

Qualitative approaches are employed in order to acquire an comprehension of underlying motivations and reasons, to bring insights to obscure problems for developing testable theories; facilitating to gather in depth understanding of how people make sense of their experiences, lives and their structures of the world . qualitative are different from quantitative approaches, they do not involve statistic or measurement but nonnumeric context or representation.Qualitative approaches cover a wide range of methods, including Content analysis (quantitative and qualitative),Discourse Analysis ,Thematic Analysis, Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA),Grounded Theory(GT) and Ethnography( Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil ; Way, 2008). Grounded theory is a useful tool of qualitative researches which “uses a systematized set of procedures to develop and inductively derive grounded theory about a phenomenon”(Corbin ; Strauss, 1990, p24).

It emphasizes on the way of establishing a theory from qualitative data that can account for much of observable behaviors instead of collecting the accurate ‘facts’ from a representative sample to fit into a testing theories and examine a pro-existing theory. Unlike quantitative approaches and some other types of qualitative methods, the collection of data is used to verify the emerging concepts and relationships that are generated from the original analysis. GT is a flexible approach which allows researchers investigating diverse fields such as interviews and video tapes to discover and explore possible theories (Fassinger,2005).An interview study of the psychology of poverty employed the grounded theory (Lea, Burgoyne, Jones, ; Beer, 1997) to investigate their understanding poverty regards to its causes, conditions and consequences as well as the psychological impacts of poverty based on 24 interviews presented as transcripts.

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GT particularly work on this study. Firstly, two core traits of GT that make it different from any other methods to analysis of qualitative data are ‘the researcher has to set aside theoretical ideas’ and the idea of concepts being created through ‘constant comparison’ (Dey ,1999,p1;as cited in Urquhart, 2001).The former feature means that researchers should ignore pro-existing studies but focus on the data, avoiding research imposing the preconceived ideas on the data; the latter is top-drawer feature of GT as a method, an uninterrupted process of contrasting or comparing the data helps the researcher understand the process of theory building and develop a more powerful theory. The GT process comprises creating codes and categories, developing themes and then generating hypotheses from participants’ experiences and the integrating scholars’ perspectives on the issues and a literature review.Therefore, GT was considered as the most salient approach of analysis.

This report is based on this original study and selected 2 female data from 24 transcripts, one is from single parents’ group and another is from student group, both are single parents and living in poverty. This report interested in the participants’ daily coping strategies to minimize the impact of their living status to keeping mentally healthy. So the report address on the question: how does single parents’ living status affect their daily coping strategies for maintaining mental wellbeing?Method and Procedure Data Collection The data for this study is based on 2 selective interview transcripts. These 2 transcripts were selected from an interview study of the psychology of poverty (Stephen, Burgoyne, Jones ; Beer, 1997) .

The study collected data from 24 participants in 4 different populations: single parents; students applying for hardship grants (of the student participants 1 female and 1 male were also single parents); clients at a day centre for the homeless and members of a work project for the unemployed.This study picked two female participants, one is from the ‘single parents’ group and the other from the ‘student’ group (Stephen, Burgoyne, Jones ; Beer, 1997). The two semi-structured interviews were carried out by the authors of study in the homes of the single parent and student participants. The interview questions included both open and closed questions and were led by a list of prompts to make sure a standard list of topics were mentioned in both interviews. The interviews roughly lasted 45 minutes and were recorded on tapes with the participants’ permission.

After the interview, participants were given 5 pounds in cash for taking part. Then the interview was transcribed, except the identifying information of individuals such as names. Data Analysis The two interview transcripts were analyzed using Grounded Theory. In the data analysis stage, GT was applied to identify categories; to make links between categories and subsequently to develop relationships between categories. After this, grounded theory was also applied in concept-based stage to generate an explanatory framework for the investigated phenomenon.

First the materials in the two transcripts were broken down to the small components (e. g. , words or sentences) and labeled. Then the labeled components were classified into identifiable categories, generating as many different concepts as possible, this process is called ‘open coding’. Then based on the initial concepts, the concept cards were established afterwards; the transcripts were then reviewed in order to find as many examples as possible for developing the properties and dimensions of key concepts (i. e. , ‘focused coding’).

Subsequently, the hypothetical relationship between categories and sub-categories were investigated for building systematic concepts (i. e. Axial Coding).

With these core concepts from the data, a refined and integrated explanation (theory) of the relationship between each concept was formed (i. e. , selective coding); the definition for each concept and the memos which record links with other concepts and theories was written in each concept card for a better understanding and explanation of the integrated theory from the data.Results Figure 1.

Grounded theory Conceptual model of the living status Figure 1 presents a Grounded theory conceptual model of the data. Living status is the overriding concept emerging from both transcripts. It involved two parts: difficulties of living in poverty and difficulties of being single parents.

These are the major constrains and risk factors for both daily existence and mental wellbeing. All the other concepts emerged are either positive to their mental health (i. e. external support, expectation, financial coping strategies ; cognitive coping strategies) which helps them cope with some difficulties, or negative to their mental wellbeing (i. e. , previous experiences, risk factors of mental health). With regards to the report questions, the model reveals that both participants suffered numerous difficulties from long-term restrictions of living in poverty and being single parents which exerted tremendous pressure on them (risk factors),which gradually accumulated developing symptoms of anxiety and depression, going against their mental well-being.

The first main theme apparent is: the difficulties from both living in poverty and being in a single parents’ position will generate risk factors of mental wellbeing. Living in poverty generates numerous difficulties in their daily living. Both reported they were restricted financially “It is very difficult… you can’t manage on what they give you” (FSP1, L 12); “It is a bit of a struggle” (FSP4, L4).

The financial restrictions constrained their choices for practical survival and the places they lived; the food they ate; the clothes they wore, the belongings they had and the types of work they can access.These physical constraints would compromise their physical health due to sustained unhealthy diet and sleep deprivation “I have just been too knackered, with working nights” (FSP4, L80); but also as risk factors adversely affected mental health. Their living place, their worn-out clothes and second-hand belongings can be the cues for labeling of poor, which confers a mark of shame and lowers their self-esteem and contributes to numerous mental health problems such as depression.Living in poverty also directly restricted the choice for mental survival and the daily activities they could actually have.

With limited income, they had to cut down their social activities. They cannot “go out much” (FSP1, L20) because of the child minders costs; they do not “go on holiday” (FSP4, L46) because of shortage of money and they hardly have luxury and entertainment; these constraints lead to a consequence of loneliness “It’s not just to do with money; I think another thing is that you get lonely” (FSP4, L76) which is a risk factor of mental health.Difficulties of being single parents also engendered risk factors of mental health which made their life much tougher. Both felt under pressure to buy new belongings for their children. For example, FSP1 would have “to manage on spuds for a week or something like that or bread” (FSP1, L 49) in order to buy winter coat for her daughter.

Similarly, FSP4 claimed that “you can’t go and buy the kids a pair of shoes without really worrying about it” (FSP4, L25).They both found raising children was not easy, not just for buying essentials for the children but also the costs for illness and schooling in the future “You know the school holidays and that type of thing you have got to worry about and when they are ill… It is a difficult situation” (FSP4, L101); therefore they both saw their future as bleak. Both showed negative attitudes about the future with children, FSP1 saw her future would be worse off because of a drop in income by stopping sickness benefit, and she worried her daughter “going without quite a lot” (FSP1, L89).While FSP4 saw future like a path of stress and difficulties because of being single parent “single parents are the cause of everything” (FSP4, L109); these financial pressure from present life and future worries pose a heavy strain on them and increase anxiety (risk factor). Both felt their ex-partners were irresponsible for having children and passing most of their duties on to them, both need to shoulder responsibility to look after their children (mother’s duty), they are always in a dilemma about going out to work but failing in their roles as a mother versus looking after the children but being no better off financially.

Both worry about the reliability of childcare “you have got to worry about if that babysitter is OK” (FSP1, L20); and while they had to pay for childcare “by the time I have paid for somebody to look after her, I ain’t gaining anything by doing it” (FSP1, L94). FSP4 struggled less than FSP1 because she got external support from her parents and friends to take care her children when she worked, saving a bit of money as well. “I have got a friend… she looks after mine” and “My parents are fairly good.

.. If I had to pay a child minder all the time I couldn’t do it. (FSP4, L63) Scrutiny from others made both single parents try to be ideal parents to meet society’s standards “I look a bit scruffy ..

. if my daughter looks healthy they can’t say I am not looking after her then can they” (FSP1, L24) to reduce risks of deprivation “That would literally kill me, because that is what I live for, her” (FSP1, L28) and being looked down upon “give your children into care..

. if a woman did it her name would be dirt ” (FSP4, L105). This formed ubiquitous pressures on both single parents, promoting the symptoms of anxiety.Both participants applied a range of Financial coping strategies. Firstly strategies for increasing income includes earning salaries from employment; applying for a student grant from university; getting benefit such as income support, family allowance, sickness benefit (only for FSP1).

FSP4 applied all these 3 strategies whilst FSP1 just using benefit system to increase income. Secondly Strategies for curtailing expenditure, both participants have a realistic understanding about their financial status, and they cut out unnecessary expenditure.For example, they lived a simple life with no luxury, no holiday, limited social activities, limited treats and no decent food or clothing. With the essentials that they don’t have or must buy, FSP1 would either get from her friends “I have friends… who have handed me things down” (FSP1, L45) such as children’s clothes or manage to buy second hand; FSP4 would either get children’s stuff from her ex-husband, or plan to buy a cheaper alternative.

Both had Pro-active behavior, both participants had made self-sacrifice a part of their daily life in order to ensure their children had essentials.Although it might contribute to resentment and threaten their mental and physical health, they put their children’s benefit before them own, sacrificing their happiness or (and) health, and kept their life under control. Both also applied range of cognitive coping strategies to maintain a sense dignity and self-esteem for mental wellbeing.

Firstly, as single parents, take care of their children better than others can be a noticed skill “I mean I am doing well, she is dressed well, she is clean, she is healthy… hey have always said that I look after her very well” (FSP1,L24) to show that they have coping abilities even in a tough situation (FSP4,L105). Furthermore, this is also a way to be approved of by society as being an ideal parent, lessening some pressures from feeling of being watched. Secondly, both thought single parents living in poverty can be seen as a predicament, if they can practically survive and not get into in debt which means they have an exceptional or rare skill in managing their finances efficiently and cope with single parenthood quite well.Having this skill makes them both feel less worried and anxious, and feel in control about the situation and capable about themselves. This helps maintain a sense of self-esteem and dignity “Knowing that I can cope with it makes you feel quite good really” (FSP4, L109).

Thirdly, because of living in poverty, both were not dressed well and felt ashamed to be looked down upon and about being seen as being poor but knew they were better off than some people, this comparison with others helped enhance their self-esteem and dignity.Lastly, both have self-justification behaviour to explain their living status and the behaviours for asking financial and external support. Both claimed their situations were not caused by their inabilities, but by the government deliberately creating obstacles for single parents and irresponsible partners with gave little financial support Maintaining a sense of hope is also a promotion of mental health. Both participants have expectation about the future solutions for help themselves out of difficulties from their living status. FSP1 laid her hope on looking for responsible and supportive man in the future to help her out.FSP4 found education to be a source of hope for a better life. In general, financial constraints for daily living and raising children generate economic pressure and lower the self-esteem.

Feeling scrutinized by surroundings with ideal standards promoted symptoms of anxiety and distress; both are risks factors of mental health and contribute to symptoms of mental disorders, threatening mental wellbeing. These various strategies when applied together, made both participants able to survive financially, which lessens pressures and maintain a sense of self-efficacy, self-esteem and dignity which contributes to mental wellbeing.Discussion The result of this study showed difficulties of living in poverty and being single parents which constrained their daily lives and posed ubiquity pressures on them are major promotions of symptoms of mental illness. Both set up range of financial coping strategies and both carried out range of cognitive coping strategies to resist social pressure and enhance self-esteem.

The result suggests that both understood their situation and problems, both tried best to avoid in debt and “make do”, both laid their hope either on man (FSP1) or education (FSP4) and adopted coping strategies for mental wellbeing.Evidenced that living status affect their styles of living, a need of psychological survival require being understood, affirmed, validated and appreciated by others; hence, behaviours of publicize and approve their own capabilities and justifying their “embarrassing” living status act as a protection for enhancing self-esteem.This study employed GT to analyze data and build theory instead of other qualitative methods is because: firstly, GT can drive data words to words which allows developing detailed information of a particular phenomenon (i. e. daily coping strategies for mental wellbeing) and place value on the contextual setting(Glaser ; Strauss, 1967); Secondly, the data analysis process of GT is systematic work which allows sorting the data and improving traceability between the data and categories; Thirdly, data analysis of GT is a reiterative process between creativeness and classification, which allows generating new ideas and discovering connections among categories and properties as well as incorporating larruping thesis in the course of study; Fourthly, data analysis of GT is the theoretical sampling process which inspires to explore variation among concepts and constringent categories by adding new data sources to enrich the evolving theory(focus coding). However, the theory of the report may weaken by demerits of GT. GT requires researchers ignoring existing theory until end of study (Cronholm ; Goldkuhl, 2003)), which engenders a risk for re-inventing the wheel, as new knowledge is always based on existing knowledge.

Moreover, a disengaged theory generation also engenders a risk for non-cumulative theory development. Several problems of using GT encountered are: it was unfocused with the data collecting before setting up the report question; GT requires researcher being open minded and forming concepts with her own knowledge, it raised a cultural issue which the data under the context of eastern culture would be interpreted differently. However, the data were the sample of the westerners who grow in western culture, interpretations may be biased.

The results of GT are very subjective, not objective; these are personal perspectives and may difficult to accumulate knowledge but individual interpretation of study.

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