Expressed fears and coping mechanisms of a selected group of preschool children

Loxton, Helena Susanna (2004-04)

Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Although fear is an integral part of normal human functioning, the onset of many anxiety disorders can be traced back to childhood. For preventative intervention to be effective, it is important to obtain knowledge of children's normative fears and coping mechanisms in order for parents and caregivers to understand and contribute towards mediating potentially stressful experiences of young children in their care. The primary aim of the study was to obtain normative data regarding the content and number of expressed fears, coping mechanisms and perceived efficacy in response to these fears by a culturally diverse group of South African preschool children living in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape Province. The secondary aim was to ascertain whether any differences in the expressed fears, coping mechanisms and perceived efficacy of the participants were found with respect to the independent variables of gender, culture, socio-economic status (SES) and community comparisons with regard to violence risk. Parental perception of children's fears, coping mechanisms and perceived efficacy, compared to the children's own views, were also taken into account. The participants consisted of 152 preschool children selected from the population of children between 5 and 7 years attending a preschool or day-care setting for at least 3 months prior to testing. The study was of an exploratory and descriptive nature. A predominantly qualitative method of data collection was used. Measuring instruments consist of the Goodenough- Harris Drawing Test, as well as semi-structured interviews in combination with drawings. Parental perceptions of children's fears, coping mechanisms and perceived efficacy, as well as participants' background information were obtained by means of a Biographical questionnaire. The data were analysed and coded according to categories based on emerging themes. The results showed similarities in many ways to that of the existing body of knowledge. The largest proportion of participants reported having animal fears, especially wild animal fears, showing that this is a relatively common type of fear in normal children between the ages of 5 and 7. Other high-frequency fear categories that emerged are the fears of the dark, night, bad dreams; fantasy people fears; real people fears; and fears of physical harm. A total number of 429 fears were expressed, ranging from 1 to 9 per participant, with an average of 2.8 fears per child for the overall sample. Parents' perceptions of the content and number of their children's fears differed hugely from those expressed by the children. Social/spiritual support was found to be the most frequently utilised, as well as perceived effective coping mechanism. Similarities with regard to the parents' perceptions were also find in this regard. Significant differences regarding the content of expressed fears were found amongst the groups relating to culture, SES and violence risk comparisons. Gender and SES differences were found to be significant amongst the groups with regard to the utilisation ·oftbping mechanisms and perceived efficacy. These differences yielded few similarities upon comparisons to the findings of previous studies. The implications of the present study' findings for the South African context as well as recommendations for further studies are discussed.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hoewel vrees 'n integrale deel van normale menslike funksionering is, word, wat die etiologie van angsversteurings betref, gevind dat dit dikwels tot vreesagtigheid tydens die kinderjare herlei kan word. Vir voorkomende intervensies om effektief te wees, is dit belangrik om kennis aangaande kinders se normale vrese en hanteringsmeganismes in te win, sodat ouers en versorgers 'n beter begrip kan hê en 'n bydrae kan maak deur middel van die mediëring van potensiële stresvolle ervarings by kinders in hulle sorg. Die primêre doel van die studie was om normatiewe data in te win aangaande die inhoud en frekwensie van uitgesproke vrese, sowel as die hanteringsmeganismes en waargenome doeltreffendheid in respons tot hierdie vrese by 'n kultureel diverse groep Suid-Afrikaanse voorskoolse kinders wat woonagtig is te Stellenbosch in die Westelike Provinsie. Die sekondêre doel van die studie was om vas te stelof daar verskille was in die uitgesproke vrese, hanteringsmeganismes en waargenome doeltreffendheid van die deelnemers met betrekking tot die onafhanklike veranderlikes van geslag, kultuur, sosioekonomiese status (SES) en van gemeenskapsvergelyking op grond van geweldsrisiko. Ouers se persepsie van kinders se vrese, hanteringsmeganismes en waargenome doeltreffendheid is ook in ag geneem. Die deelnemers was tussen 5 en 7 jaar oud en het bestaan uit 152 voorskoolse kinders wat 'n voorskoolse - of dagsorgsentrumopset bygewoon het vir minstens 3 maande lank voor toetsing plaasgevind het. Die studie was eksploratief en beskrywend van aard. 'n Oorwegend kwalitatiewe metode van data-insameling is gebruik. Meetinstrumente wat gebruik is, is die Goodenough- Harris Drawing Test, sowel as semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude in kombinasie met tekeninge. Ouers se persepsies van kinders se vrese, hanteringsmeganismes en waargenome doeltreffendheid, sowel as agtergrondsinligting oor die deelnemers, is met behulp van die Biografiese vraelys ingewin. Die data is geanaliseer en in kategorieë gekodifiseer op grond van die temas wat na vore gekom het. Die resultate het in baie opsigte ooreenkomste met die bestaande kennisbasis getoon. Die grootste proporsie van die deelnemers het vrese vir diere, veral wilde diere, gerapporteer, wat 'n aanduiding is dat dit 'n baie algemene tipe vrees by normale kinders tussen die ouderdomme van 5 en 7 jaar is. Ander hoë-frekwensie vreeskategorieë wat na vore gekom het, is vrese vir die donker, nag, slegte drome; vrese vir fantasiekarakters; vir werklike mense, en vrese vir ligaamlike skade. 'n Totale aantal van 429 vrese is gerapporteer, wat gewissel het van 1 tot 9 per deelnemer, met 'n gemiddelde van 2.8 vrese per deelnemer vir die totale groep. Ouers se persepsies van die inhoud en frekwensie van hulle kinders se vrese het grootliks verskil van dié van die kinders. Dit is gevind dat sosiale/geestelike ondersteuning die mees algemeen gebruikte sowel as die mees effektiewe waargenome hanteringsmeganisme was. Ooreenkomste ten opsigte hiervan is ook gevind met betrekking tot die ouers se persepsies. Beduidende verskille ten opsigte van die inhoud van uitgesproke vrese is gevind tussen groepe met betrekking tot kultuur, SES en gemeenskapsvergelyking op grond van geweldsrisiko. Met betrekking tot die keuse van hanteringsmeganismes en waargenome doeltreffendheid, is beduidende verskille ten opsigte van geslag en SES tussen groepe gevind. Daar blyk weinig ooreenkoms met bevindinge van vorige studies in hierdie verband te wees. Die implikasies van die huidige studie se bevindinge ten opsigte van die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks, sowel as aanbevelings vir verdere studies, word bespreek.

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