Mediating adolescents' insights into shared traumatic experiences through drawings
Thesis (MEdPsych (Educational Psychology)--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
Drawings as mediators of communication are utilised in multiple contexts across national and cultural divides. The value of drawings in eliciting meaning that transcends the boundaries of words has been documented for centuries. In educational practice, drawings are utilised in a wide range of settings, ranging from therapeutic to psycho-educational assessment, disclosure in forensic and sexual abuse cases, and for artistic expression. Furthermore, research confirms the usefulness of drawings in empowering marginalised populations from a participatory action-research stance. Using drawing in research to mediate communication in a group context when studying adolescent perceptions of a traumatic event has not been explored extensively in South Africa. This study therefore sought to explore adolescents' experiences of a shared traumatic incident as facilitated through their drawings. The research process set out to answer the following research question: What insights regarding adolescents' experiences of a shared traumatic incident can be gained from using drawing in a group context? This investigation is underpinned by an eco-systemic theoretical perspective which recognises the influence of the community in the experiences of its individual members. The African concept of ubuntu, meaning "whatever happens to the individual happens to the whole group, and whatever happens to the whole group happens to the individual", thus informs the research. Within the context of psychoanalytical theory in trauma research, international literature acknowledges that families and communities are important resources to help bring about healing. The findings of this study confirm that the dynamic interaction between personal factors and interpersonal factors relating to one's peers, family and community influence how individual and collective experiences are shaped and assimilated. The findings of the study led me to conclude that drawing became a non-confrontational facilitator for traumatised participants to express difficult feelings that may otherwise have been silenced. Furthermore, in addition to self-expression, the co-analysing of drawings in a group context created opportunities for collective remembrance. Its potential to empower marginalised populations such as the adolescent participants in this study to express their views on social injustice also emerged. The study's findings could serve as a motivator for further investigation of drawings as mediators of communication in a variety of traumarelated educational settings.