Educators' experiences of their role in supporting children from divorced families : a phenomenological study

Vermeulen, Karen Dina (2004-04)

Thesis (MEdPsych)--University of Stellenbosch, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Divorce is a common phenomenon throughout the world. According to the South African Population census in 1996 (Stats SA, 2001: 1.7) almost a tenth of the individuals that got married that year, had been separated or divorced. In the United States of America it is estimated that almost one out of every two couples eventually divorce (Dreman, 1999: 150). According to Pedro-Carroll, Sutton and Wyman (1999:467) many children may be at risk as a result of the negative consequences of marital disruption. These children challenge us, as educators, to support them in ways that will reduce risk factors and promote resilient outcomes for them. The statement by Pedro-Carroll et al. (1999:467) provides a rationale for this study, namely that children from divorced families may need support when experiencing the consequences of divorce. I argue that the school system, especially educators, play an important role in supporting children form divorced families. The school environment may serve as a source of support for children from divorced families, where educators are in a good position to be empathic to these children's problems and needs (Bray and Berger, 1992:73; Dreman, 1999:163). Therefore, I explored the phenomenon of educators' experiences of their role in supporting children from divorced families. The methods I made use of was firstly, semi-structured interviews to gain the educators' experiences individually. Two focus group sessions followed, where I also determined their experiences in a group dynamic. Through the produced and trascribed data I gained new insights into educators' experiences on this matter, by identifying themes from their experiences. One hundred and sixty one (161) themes were identified from the produced data. The findings were presented in four areas of experience, namely, educators' experiences in terms of:.the child; themselves; the school; and the parents. Some participants have experienced that generally children come across as uncertain and stressed, when their parents divorce, and that children may even feel that the divorce is his fault. It was also mentioned that children may exhibit psychosomatic symptoms due to the stress they experience. In terms of the educators' experiences of the school environment it was mentioned that the school provides structure for the children from divorced families. According to Wallerstein et al. (1980:277) the school can provide structure in a child's life at a time when the major structure of his life, the family, is crumbling. Mostly, educators have experienced that they do play an important role in supporting these children. Some even mentioned that they, as educators, have to sometimes fulfil a parental role for that child. According to Ligon and McDaniel (1970:76) educators are of inestimable help to children who bring their problems to them. I believe that the findings of this phenomenological study add credence to the research on educators as a supportive system for children from divorced families.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Egskeiding is 'n algemene verskynsel deur die wêreld heen. Volgens die Suid- Afrikaans Populasie sensus in 1996 (Stats SA, 2001 :1.7), het ongeveer 'n tiende van die individue wat daardie jaar getroud is, geskei. In die Verenigde State van Amerika is daar beraam dat ongeveer een uit elke twee egpare uiteindelik skei (Dreman, 1999:150). Volgens Pedro-Carroll, Sutton en Wyman (1999:467) kan baie kinders moontlik onder risiko geplaas word as gevolg van die negatiewe gevolge van fn gebroke huwelik. Hierdie kinders daag ons, as opvoeders, uit om hulle op wyses te ondersteun wat risiko faktore sal verminder en veerkragtige uitkomste vir hulle sal bevorder. Die stelling gemaak deur Pedro-Carroll et al. (1999:467) voorsien die studie van fn gegronde beredenering, naamlik dat kinders van geskeide gesinne moontlik ondersteuning benodig wanneer hulle die gevolge van egskeiding ervaar. Ek beredeneer dat die skool sisteem, spesifiek onderwysers, fn belangrike rol speel in die ondersteuning van kinders uit geskeide gesinne. Die skoolomgewing kan moontlik dien as fn bron van ondersteuning vir kinders van geskeide gesinne, waar onderwysers in 'n goeie posisie is om empaties te wees teenoor hierdie kinders se probleme en behoeftes (Bray en Berger, 1992:73; Dreman, 1999:163). Vir hierdie rede het ek die fenomeen van onderwysers se ervarings van hul rol in die ondersteuning van kinders uit geskeide gesinne, ondersoek. Die metodes waarvan ek gebruik gemaak het was eerstens, semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude om die onderwysers se ervarings individueel in te win. Twee fokus groep sessies het gevolg, waarin ek ook hul ervarings bepaal het in 'n groepsdinamiek. Deur die geproduseerde en getranskribeerde data het ek tot nuwe insigte gekom rakende onderwysers se ervarings in hierdie verband, deur temas te identifiseer vanuit hulle ervarings. Een honderd een en sestig (161) temas is geïdentifiseer vanuit die geproduseerde data. Die bevindinge is voorgestel in vier areas van ervaring, naamlik, onderwysers se ervarings van: die kind; hulself; die skool; en die ouers. Sommige van die onderwysers het ervaar dat kinders oor die algemeen as onseker en gespanne voorkom wanneer hulouers skei. Die kind kan selfs voel dat die egskeiding sy skuld is. Daar is ook genoem dat kinders psigosomatiese simptome kan toon weens spanning wat hul moontlik ervaar. In terme van die onderwysers se ervarings van die skoolomgewing is genoem dat die skool struktuur voorsien aan kinders van geskeide gesinne. Volgens Wallerstein et al. (1980:277) kan die skool struktuur voorsien in 'n kind se lewe in 'n tyd waar die hoofstruktuur van sy lewe, sy gesin, verbrokkel. Die onderwysers het meestal ervaar dat hulle wel 'n belangrike rol speel in die ondersteuning van hierdie kinders. Sommige van die onderwysers het selfs genoem dat hulle somtyds 'n ouerlike rol vervul vir so 'n kind. Volgens Ligon en McDaniel (1970:76) is onderwysers van onskatbare hulp vir kinders wat hul probleme na hulle toe bring. Ek vertrou dat die bevindinge van hierdie fenomenologiese studie geloofwaardigheid byvoeg tot die navorsing van onderwysers as 'n ondersteuningsisteem vir kinders van geskeide gesinne.

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