Author: Yung, Kwok-fung
Title: A life story approach to studying the resilience and recovery processes of single parents with depressive symptoms in Hong Kong
Degree: DSW
Year: 2018
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Single parents -- China -- Hong Kong
Single parents -- Psychology
Department: Department of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: 396 pages
Language: English
Abstract: In the past few decades, the number of single parents in Hong Kong has increased sharply. According to the thematic report by Hong Kong SAR Census and Statistics Department (2016), there were 76,423 single parents in Hong Kong, the number was higher than that of 2006 (73,428). Increases in the rates of separation and divorce in Hong Kong may be the result of political and economic changes that have taken place over the past several decades, for example, the number of cross-border marriages has increased. With differences in age and socio-cultural backgrounds, conflict between these couples is common, which may result in separation. Besides, when I worked with single parent families, I had some understanding of these target groups. In many cases, they experienced financial, emotional, and child-rearing problems. Indeed, many single parents tend to report anxiety-related symptoms, difficulty or dissatisfaction in social functioning and even depressive symptoms (HKSPA, 2004). This research is based on a life story approach to studying the subjective experiences of resilience and recovery of single parents with depressive symptoms in Hong Kong. As I adopted a life-story approach, a lot of work in transcription and interpretation of interview contents was done. The merit of the life-story approach is studying informants' turning points of their stories. Each of the informants shared low points of their life. Their turning points provided some hints for studying their recovery and resilience. By using a thematic analysis, analyzing the stories was as a process of information reduction to achieve meaningful groupings in order to name themes of stories. The significant findings showed that the common depressive symptoms among informants are depressive moods, anger, suicidal thoughts and feeling of loss. Unique characteristics of single fathers and single mothers in expressing emotions, pain, managing family matters are revealed through their life stories. Most importantly, some crucial elements of resilience and recovery, namely, i. person-centered elements, such as hope, changing mindset, sense of agency; ii. exchange-centered elements, such as social functioning, roles, power and choice in life; and iii. community-centered elements, such as social connectedness, social support and integration, influenced the development of resilience among informants. The process of developing resilience is a complex and dynamic journey in which informants faced many ups and downs. A holistic framework for recovery and resilience of single parents with depressive symptoms is proposed. The findings revealed that the stress of beavered single parents is greater than that of divorced single parents. Also, the stress caused by the sudden death of spouse is much greater than that caused by the expected death of spouse with chronic disease. Moreover, single parents encountering family violence suffered more stress and their resilience was weakened. Other sources of stress include financial, emotional and child-rearing problems, which are the major personal risk factors that affected their recovery and resilience. Some environmental risk factors include traditional Chinese belief, such as "bad news of the family should not be spoken out", acting as an obstacle to seeking help from formal support. Instead, informal support was chosen. At the same time, it was not usual for single parents in Hong Kong to seek formal help even when in need. Based on the above findings, some recommendations are made for social work intervention in working with single parents with depressive symptoms. Social workers will need to raise their awareness of this and think about how to approach them. In fact, in the past several years, many family tragedies were related to the hardships of single parents. It is hoped that social workers can be more pro-active. Besides, the current social education, reporting mechanisms and modes of intervention may need to be re-examined and improved. The successful cases of this study can provide some insights for social workers to review the current ways of intervention, in particular in resilience building, crucial elements of the process of recovery and resilience of single parents. Developing new knowledge and forms of intervention are essential for the path of development of the social work profession. Single parents are a sub-group of society that social workers need to be concerned about, in particular in terms of their recovery and resilience.
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