“Always being there for each other”: adolescent girls’ experiences of their same-sex friendships in a Western Cape boarding school

Truter, Zelda Marthani (2018-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: Previous research identified same-sex friendships as a protective factor for adolescent girls’ mental well-being, while a lack thereof is associated with depression and lower levels of self-esteem among adolescent girls. Yet, adolescent girls’ friendships have received scant attention in the South African literature. The majority of research in this field seems to be quantitative in nature and tends to focus on adverse friendship influences and the associated risk factors for adolescent girls. This qualitative study aimed to explore how a group of South African adolescent girls experience their same-sex friendships. Further aims were to investigate the nature of these friendships; possible protective and/or risk factors operating within these friendships; and how the girls negotiated their positions in the friendship group. Ten, 15 to 16-year-old White middle- to upper-class girls, resident in an all girls’ boarding school in the Western Province, South Africa, participated in this study. I collected the data by means of individual in-depth semi-structured interviews and used thematic analysis to analyse the data inductively with ATLAS.ti software. This study was conducted within an interpretivist research paradigm and I used relational-cultural theory as lens to understand the girls’ friendship experiences. Ethical approval for this study was provided by Stellenbosch University’s Research Ethics Committee, the Western Cape Educational Department, and the school principal involved. I identified three key themes from the data: (1) The nature of adolescent girls’ friendships, (2) idealising the friendship, and (3) friendship as a support system. The participants described how they started to think more about their friendships in adolescence and reflected on how different friendships could meet their personal needs. Emphasis was given to empathy and reciprocity as key to the girls’ experiences of feeling supported by their friends. Supportive acts included listening to and providing a friend with advice, humour, and identity validation. Even though adolescence seems to be accompanied with more intimate and satisfying friendships, these girls also noted how boyfriends, jealousy, and a popularity hierarchy, introduced challenges in their friendships. Additionally, due to the demands of “niceness”, the girls at times would avoid behaviours that could cause conflict or hurt a friend’s feelings, thus devaluing their own experiences for the sake of maintaining an ideal harmonious friendship. Being unable to live up to the demands of being an ideal friend often left the girl feeling guilty, disappointed, or burdened, created tension in the friendship, and could affect the quality of the friendship. The findings of this study provide deeper insight into the workings of adolescent girls’ same-sex friendships in South Africa. These girls’ interpretations of rigid femininity ideals seemingly create barriers to the formation of meaningful friendships and highlights the need to equip girls with skills to effectively deal with conflict and differences amongst friends. On the other hand, this study also illustrates how compassionate, reciprocal, and empathetic friendships could contribute towards psychological resilience. Such friendships create supportive environments in which adolescent girls can work through their personal struggles and the challenges associated with adolescence.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Vorige navorsing het dieselfde-geslag vriendskappe as 'n beskermende faktor vir tienermeisies se sielkundige welsyn identifiseer, terwyl 'n gebrek daaraan verband hou met depressie en laer vlakke van selfvertroue onder tienermeisies. Tog het tienermeisies se vriendskappe min aandag in die Suid-Afrikaanse literatuur ontvang. Die meeste navorsing in hierdie veld blyk kwantitatief van aard en is geneig om te fokus op nadelige vriendskapsinvloede en die gepaardgaande risikofaktore vir tienermeisies. Hierdie kwalitatiewe studie was daarop gemik om te verken hoe 'n groep Suid-Afrikaanse tienermeisies dieselfde-geslag vriendskappe ervaar. Verdere doelwitte was om die aard van hierdie vriendskappe te ondersoek; moontlike beskermende en / of risikofaktore wat binne hierdie vriendskappe funksioneer; en hoe die meisies hul posisies in die vriendskapsgroep onderhandel het. Tien, 15 tot 16-jarige Wit middel- tot hoër klas meisies, inwoners van 'n meisieskoshuis in die Wes-Kaap Provinsie, Suid-Afrika, het aan hierdie studie deelgeneem. Ek het die data by wyse van individuele in-diepte semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude versamel en tematiese analise gebruik om die data induktief te analiseer met ATLAS.ti sagteware. Hierdie studie is uitgevoer binne 'n interpretatiewe navorsingsparadigma en ek gebruik relational-cultural theory as lens om die meisies se vriendskapservarings te verstaan. Etiese goedkeuring vir hierdie studie is verskaf deur die Universiteit Stellenbosch se Navorsingsetiekkomitee, die Wes-Kaapse Onderwysdepartement, en die betrokke skoolhoof. Ek het drie sleuteltemas vanuit die data identifiseer: (1) Die aard van tienermeisies se vriendskappe, (2) die idealisering van die vriendskap, en (3) vriendskap as 'n ondersteuningsisteem. Die deelnemers het beskryf hoe hulle meer begin dink oor hul vriendskappe in adolessensie en het reflekteer hoe verskillende vriendskappe hul persoonlike behoeftes kan bevredig. Klem is gelê op empatie en wederkerigheid as sleutel tot die gevoel dat hulle ondersteun word deur hul vriendinne. Ondersteunende dade was onder andere om na ‘n vriendin te luister en haar te voorsien met raad, humor, en identiteits -validering. Alhoewel vriendskappe in adolessensie blyk om meer intiem en bevredigend te wees, het hierdie meisies ook opgemerk hoe kêrels, jaloesie, en 'n populariteitshiërargie uitdagings aan hul vriendskappe gestel het. As gevolg van die eise van “ordentlikheid" sou die meisies by tye gedrag vermy wat kon lei tot konflik of 'n vriendin se gevoelens seermaak en sodoende hul eie ervarings devalueer ter wille daarvan om 'n ideale harmonieuse vriendskap te handhaaf. Wanneer meisies nie aan die eise van 'n ideale vriendin kon voldoen nie, het dit die deelnemers dikwels skuldig, teleurgesteld of bedruk laat voel, spanning in die vriendskap geskep, en kon die kwaliteit van die vriendskap beïnvloed. Die bevindings van hierdie studie bied 'n dieper insig in die dinamika van tienermeisies se dieselfde-geslag vriendskappe in Suid-Afrika. Hierdie meisies se interpretasies van rigiede vroulikheids-ideale skep oënskynlik hindernisse vir die vorming van sinvolle vriendskappe en beklemtoon die behoefte om meisies met vaardighede toe te rus om effektief konflik en verskille tussen vriendinne te hanteer. Aan die ander kant illustreer hierdie studie ook hoe medelydende, wederkerige en empatiese vriendskappe kan bydra tot sielkundige veerkragtigheid. Sulke vriendskappe skep ondersteunende omgewings waarin tienermeisies deur hul persoonlike stryd en die uitdagings van adolessensie kan werk.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103663
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