Support systems and coping strategies used by South African children of divorce

Pretorius, Karin (2009-03)

Thesis (MA (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


Divorce is a stressful experience for ndividuals, especially children, who are still in the school age or adolescent development phase. It is often associated with loss, such as the loss of a parent in the home, and in some cases loss of financial stability. The primary aim of this study was to determine what support systems and coping strategies South African children of divorce make use of. The secondary aims were to investigate whether there are any age or gender differences with regard to coping strategies as well as support systems, and to investigate which support systems are perceived to be helpful and why certain support systems are not utilized. The study made use of a cross-sectional design and a sample of 41 South African children. Support systems were measured with a semi-structured questionnaire (Support Systems Questionnaire) that was developed based on a previous study conducted by Braude and Francisco-La Grange (1993). Children’s use of coping strategies was measured with the Children’s Coping Strategies Checklist – 3rd Revision (CCSC-R3). Results indicate that children make use of avoidance coping strategies most often, followed by active coping strategies and support coping strategies. The majority of the children named the mother as the most helpful source of support after the divorce. Findings show certain age and gender differences in the support systems used by the children. Older children (13- to-17-year-old) were more likely to speak to adults other than their parents about the divorce than younger children (8- to- 12-year-old). Girls were more likely than boys to confide in their friends, psychologists and adults other than their parents about the divorce. There were no age or gender differences regarding the three main coping strategies used by the children (active coping, avoidant coping and support coping). There were, however, differences regarding the more specific coping strategies. Younger children were more likely than older children to use wishful thinking as a coping strategy. They also made more use of parents for support for problem solving and support for feelings than did adolescents. All of the children in the sample made some effort to cope with their problems and had some form of support system.

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