A group of semi-rural, low-income adolescents’ constructions of intimacy in romantic relationships

Furphy, Claire (2012-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Intimate and satisfying relationships in adolescence are connected to mental health and well-being and have significant implications for adolescent psychosocial development. Despite the benefits of romantic involvement, research into adolescents’ experiences within their romantic relationships is limited. Few studies on adolescent intimacy experiences, especially those leading to conceptualizations of intimacy, have been undertaken. The majority of studies that have been conducted on adolescents’ intimacy experiences have been conducted in White, Euro-American, middle-class samples, using quantitative methodology and researchers’ definitions of the construct. In South Africa adolescent romantic relationships are often studied because of their links with pressing social issues, such as teenage pregnancy, intimate partner violence and risky sexual behaviour and HIV/AIDS, rather than for the value of understanding the relationships themselves. The resultant negative constructions of adolescent romance in research literature serve to continue the narrow scope of inquiry into adolescent intimate relationships and also limit the ability of professionals and care-givers to respond to the relationship challenges of South African youth. The present study was aimed at addressing some of the limitations of previous research on adolescent romantic relationship experiences, with a particular focus on intimacy. Coloured adolescents from a low-income, semi-rural community in the Western Cape were selected as participants for the inquiry due to the overwhelming lack of knowledge about the constructions of intimacy in this group. Social constructionism was used as a theoretical framework to ground and inform the study. The research objective was to develop an understanding of the constructions and experiences of intimacy of middle adolescents within the specific target community. A social constructionist grounded theory method was used. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 young men and women. The social constructionist grounded theory analysis indicated that participants appeared to strive toward having ideal relationships as portrayed in the Western popular media. Participants’ constructions of intimacy centred on behaviour rather than on abstract, emotional experience, Their relationship experiences and behaviours reflected discourses of gendered romantic relationship interaction, with boys emphasizing commitment and girls focusing on “doing emotion work” as pathways to experiencing and expressing intimacy. The researcher raises the possibility that adolescent boy’s and girl’s striving toward ideal Western relationships, media and peer reinforcement of these ideal relationships and adolescents’ specific developmental cognitive limitations may limit their capacity for knowing themselves and their partners in their romantic relationships and contribute to inauthenticity in romantic relationships. As Western mainstream intimacy discourses stress the importance of self and partner knowledge, as well as authenticity in romantic relationships, these discourses therefore make it difficult to recognize and validate adolescents’ intimacy experiences. In fact these discourses imply that adolescents have a limited ability to experience intimacy. The researcher argues that by situating intimacy in the context of behaviours rather than emotional experience, understandings of intimacy can move beyond the essentialist depictions of what is and is not intimate, thus allowing for a range of behaviours to count as intimate, broadening the possibilities for conceptualizing and acknowledging intimacy.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Intieme en bevredigende verhoudings in adolessensie is verbind aan geestelike gesondheid en welsyn en het beduidende implikasies vir die adolessent se psigososiale ontwikkeling Ten spyte hiervan, is navorsingoor adolessentese ervaringsin hulromantiese verhoudingsbeperk. Minstudies ooradolessenteintimiteit, veral dié wat lei totbegrippevanintimiteit, isonderneem.Diemeerderheid van studiesooradolessente seintimiteitservaringsis uitgevoer inWit,Euro-Amerikaanse, middelklas steekproewe. In Suid-Afrika word adolessente se romantiese verhoudings dikwels bestudeervanweehul assosiasie met dreigende sosiale kwessies soos tienerswangerskappe, intieme maatgeweld, riskante seksuele gedrag en MIV/VIGS, eerder as vir die waarde van die begrip van die verhoudings self. Die gevolglike negatiewe konstruksies van adolessente se romantiese betrokkenheid dra by tot die beperkte fokus en omvang van ondersoekeoor adolessente se romantiese verhoudings, en ook die beperkte vermoë van professionele mense en versorgers om te reageer op die verhoudingsuitdagings van die Suid-Afrikaanse jeug te beperk. Die huidige studie was daarop gemik om van die beperkings van vorige navorsing oor adolessente se romantiese verhoudingservarings, met 'n besondere fokus op intimiteit, aan te spreek. Kleurling adolessente van 'n semi-landelike gemeenskap in die Wes Kaap is gekies as deelnemers as gevolg van die oorweldigende gebrek aan kennis oor die konstruksie van intimiteit in hierdie groep. ‘nSosiaal-konstruktionistiese raamwerk is gebruik om die studie te begrond en te rig. Die navorsingsdoelwit was om 'n begrip van die ervarings van intimiteit van middel-adolessente binne die spesifieke teikengemeenskap te ontwikkel. Hierdie doel is bereik deur gebruik te maak van 'n sosiaal-konstruksionistiese gegrondeteoriemetode.In-diepte onderhoude is gevoer met 20 adolessente mans en vrouens. Die sosiaal konstruktionistiese gegronde teorie analise het aangedui dat deelnemers se konstruksies van intimiteit gedrag eerder as emosionele ervaring in hul intimiteitsvertellings beklemtoon het. Hul verhouding ervarings en gedrag weerspieël diskoerse van geslagtelike romantiese verhoudinginteraksie met seuns wattoewyding en meisies wat die "doen van emosie werk" beklemtoon as roetes na intimiteit. Deelnemers blyk om te streef na ideale verhoudings soos uitgebeeld is in die Wes-populêre media, duer ‘n behoefte om in te pas en aanvaar te word deur hul eweknieë. Hierdie proses kan deelnemers lei om op te tree en hulle gedagtes oor romantiese verhoudings uit te spreek in ooreenstemming met wat algemeen aanvaar word binne hul portuurgroep, eerder as in die maniere wat hulle eie oortuigings, begrip en begeertes weerspieël. Hierdie proses lei tot 'n beperkte kennis en bewustheid van die self as' n romantiese vennoot sowel as 'n neiging tot onoutentieke grdrag in romantiese verhoudings. Hierdie beperkte self-bewustheid en onoutentieke gedrag inhibeer dan adolessente se vermoë om intimiteit te ervaar wanneer dit volgens die hoofstroom konstruksies daarvan beskou is. Die bevindinge dui op die behoefte aan die gebruik van breër definisies van intimiteit in die oorweging van adolessente romantiese verhoudings, die bou van alternatiewe diskoerse van intimiteit en‘n verhoging van leiding deur volwassenes ten opsigte vanadoloesente se romantiese verhoudings Sekere beperkings van die huidige navorsing het ook verwys na 'n behoefte aan meer navorsing oor die invloed van' n wyer kontekstuele faktore in adolessente se konstruksies van intimiteit.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/19981
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