Exploring factors that helped adolescents adjust and continue with life after the death of a parent

Ludik, Dane (2016-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Globally studies indicate that adolescents’ exposure to parental death is on the increase, yet there are few South African studies on this topic. While limited studies have been done on grief and loss within South African populations, most of these studies were conducted on adult populations (Anderson & Phillips, 2006; Merlo & Lakey, 2007). It therefore is important to highlight factors that helped adolescents to adjust and continue with life after the death of a parent. Antonovsky’s (1987) sense of coherence theory and Bowlby’s (1980) lifespan attachment theory were used within the larger paradigm of positive psychology as the theoretical framework of this study, which aimed to identify factors that helped adolescents to adjust and continue with life after the death of a parent. A qualitative research design was utilised, in which 12 participants participated in semi-structured interviews. To identify factors that helped these adolescents to adjust and continue with life after the death of a parent, the qualitative data were analysed according to Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six phases of thematic analysis. The following themes and sub-themes, as identified from the qualitative data and the literature review, were identified as helpful for adjustment after parental death: family support: supportive remaining parent, parent has a supportive partner (the partner supports the child, the long-term partner offers companionship to the remaining parent) and supportive extended family; social support: child has supportive friends (friends offer emotional support to child, friends distract child from circumstances) and supportive community; religion: religion as a coping mechanism and religion as means of communicating with the deceased parent; and strong sense of coherence as an intra-personal coping mechanism. In addition, the following non-specific coping mechanisms that helpeThe following themes and sub-themes, as identified from the qualitative data and the literature review, were identified as helpful for adjustment after parental death: family support: supportive remaining parent, parent has a supportive partner (the partner supports the child, the long-term partner offers companionship to the remaining parent) and supportive extended family; social support: child has supportive friends (friends offer emotional support to child, friends distract child from circumstances) and supportive community; religion: religion as a coping mechanism and religion as means of communicating with the deceased parent; and strong sense of coherence as an intra-personal coping mechanism. In addition, the following non-specific coping mechanisms that helped. with adjusting after the death of a parent were identified: exercising, allowing time to prepare for the death of a parent diagnosed with cancer, tangible reminders of the deceased and journal writing. This study provides adolescents’ perspectives on factors that helped them to adjust and continue with life after the death of a parent. The study also contributes to South African research on adolescents’ exposure to parental death. The results can be used to design interventions and organise support groups for adolescents whose parent have passed away. Support groups can be set up in which adolescents share their individual experiences of what helped them to adjust. As an exploratory study, this study makes recommendations for future, related studies on factors that help adolescents to adjust and continue with life after the death of a parent.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Alhoewel studies wêreldwyd daarop dui dat adolessente se blootstelling aan ouerverlies toeneem, is daar nog steeds min Suid-Afrikaanse navorsing oor hierdie onderwerp gedoen. Daar is ʼn beperkte aantal Suid-Afrikaanse studies oor die rou-proses en die verlies van ʼn ouerfiguur, maar die meerderheid navorsing wat gedoen is, fokus op volwassenes se ervaring van verlies (Anderson & Phillips, 2006; Merlo & Lakey, 2007). Dit is juis daarom belangrik om faktore uit te lig wat adolessente gehelp het om voort te gaan met hul lewe na die verlies van ʼn ouer. Antonovsky (1987) se aanpassingsteorie en Bowlby (1980) se lewensduur- gehegtheidsteorie is gebruik binne die groter paradigma van die positiewe sielkunde as die teoretiese raamwerk van hierdie studie. Die doel van die studie was om faktore te identifiseer wat adolessente gehelp het om aan te pas en voort te gaan met hulle lewens na die afsterwe van ʼn ouer. ʼn Kwalitatiewe navorsingsontwerp is gebruik, waar 12 deelnemers aan semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude deelgeneem het. Met behulp van Braun en Clarke (2006) se ses stappe van tematiese ontleding is faktore geïdentifiseer wat adolessente gehelp het met die aanpassing en verwerkingsproses ná die verlies van ʼn ouer. Die volgende temas en sub-temas, soos geïdentifiseer tydens die kwalitatiewe ontleding asook die literatuuroorsig, is aangedui as behulpsaam vir aanpassing na die dood van ʼn ouer: gesinsondersteuning: ondersteunende ouer, ouer het ʼn ondersteunende lewensmaat (lewensmaat ondersteun kind, lewensmaat bied kameraadskap vir ouer) en ondersteunende uitgebreide familie; sosiale ondersteuning: kind het ondersteunende vriende (vriende bied emosionele ondersteuning, vriende bied afleiding van omstandighede) en ondersteunende gemeenskap; godsdiens: geloof as behartigingsmeganisme, godsdiens as manier om met die oorledene te kommunikeer; en laastens, ’n sterk sin van koherensie as ’n intra-persoonlike behartigingsmeganisme. Die volgende nie-spesifieke behartigingsmeganismes is ook geïdentifiseer om behulpsaam te wees gedurende die aanpas en verwerkingsproses: fisiese oefening, tyd om voor te berei vir die dood van ʼn ouer wat met kanker gediagnoseer is, tasbare herinneringe aan die oorlede ouer en ’n joernaal hou. Die studie bied dus faktore wat adolessente gehelp het met die aanpassing en verwerkingsproses ná die dood van ʼn ouer. Die studie dra by tot Suid-Afrikaanse literatuur oor adolessente se blootstelling aan ouerverlies. Die resultate kan gebruik word om intervensies te ontwikkel en ondersteuningsgroepe te organiseer vir adolessente wie se ouer of ouers afgesterf het. Ondersteuningsgroepe kan opgestel word waarin adolessente hulle individuele ervarings deel oor aspekte wat hulle gehelp het om ná die verlies van ʼn ouer aan te pas. As ’n verkennende studie word in hierdie studie aanbevelings gemaak vir toekomstige, verwante navorsing wat kan fokus op faktore wat adolessente gehelp het met die aanpassing en verwerkingproses ná die dood van ’n ouer.

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