Psychological strengths mediating the stress-coping experience : implications for mental health in school-going adolescents from low-income communities of the Cape Metropole

Harrison, Carmen (2020-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South African research has paid scant attention to the role of psychological strengths in coping with stress and the impact these have on the overall mental health of adolescents living low-income communities. However, an understanding of the role of psychological strengths in mediating the impact of stress on the mental health of adolescents is necessary as it could indicate those factors that may be pivotal to interventions targeting mental-health promotion and mental-illness prevention for vulnerable adolescents. The present study investigated the mental health of school-going adolescents who reside in low-income communities of the Cape Metropole (Western Cape, South Africa), with a specific focus on psychological strengths (in particular self-esteem, perceived social support and resilience) and their mediating role on tHE stress-coping process. The first manuscript of the study focuses on providing a synthesis of current literature, existing gaps in the literature and identifying avenues for mental-health promotion for at-risk adolescents. I used randomised cluster sampling to select six no-fee paying schools situated in low-income communities of the Cape Metropole as the sites for data collection. For the second (quantitative) manuscript, the questionnaire-responses of 347 participants (aged 12 to 21 years), were used. I used Structural Equation Modelling to test a hypothesised model including the latent variables of mental health, psychological stress, psychological strengths (self-esteem, perceived social support and resilience) and various coping strategies. The hypothesised measurement model fit the data and the structural relations revealed that the relationship between psychological stress and mental health was fully mediated by psychological strengths. Therefore psychological strengths had a protective impact on the mental health of adolescents who experienced psychological stress in the context of socio-economic adversity. The third (qualitative) manuscript of the study focused on highlighting participants’ personal narratives of stressors, stress, coping, psychological strengths and mental health that were explored by means of individual semi-structured audio-recorded interviews with 14 participants (aged 13 to 17 years) from four schools. Following the thematic analyses of the data the following themes were evident: the community as a source of stress and support, peer relationships as a source of stress, fear of failure at school, avoidant coping as a risk factor, self-esteem as a protective factor, perceived social support and support networks as protective factors and problem-solving coping as a protective factor.I have included a fourth qualitative manuscript to underscore the numerous violence-related stressors that the adolescents who participated in the study encountered. Thus,the latter descriptive manuscript explored the written responses of 150 school-going adolescents (aged 13 to 21 years), drawn from three schools situated in three different low-income areas of the Cape Metropole regarding the violence they had witnessed in their communities. Thematically analysed written responses that emerged from the adolescent voices, could be subsumed under five violence-related themes discussed in Chapter 6. This study adds to the knowledge on South African adolescents’ mental health, in the context of socio-economic adversity. The findings can be used to inform strategies aimed at enhancing mental health and preventing mental illness in at-risk adolescents.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suid-Afrikaanse navorsing het tot dusver weinig aandag geskenk aan die rol van sielkundige sterkpunte in die hantering van stres, en die impak daarvan op die algehele geestesgesondheid van adolessente in lae-inkomstegemeenskappe. Tog is dit noodsaaklik om te verstaan hoe sielkundige sterkpunte die impak van stres op adolessente se geestesgesondheid bemiddel. Dít kan immers op kernfaktore vir intervensies ter bevordering van geestesgesondheid en ter voorkoming van geestesiekte by kwesbare adolessente dui. Hierdie studie het die geestesgesondheid van skoolgaande adolessente in lae-inkomstegemeenskappe van die Kaapse metropool (Wes-Kaap, Suid-Afrika) ondersoek, met ’n bepaalde klem op sielkundige sterkpunte (veral selfagting, veronderstelde maatskaplike steun, en veerkragtigheid) en die bemiddelende rol daarvan in die streshanteringsproses. Die eerste manuskrip van die studie bied ’n sintese van huidige literatuur, bestaande leemtes in die literatuur, en moontlikhede om die geestesgesondheid van adolessente-in-gevaar te bevorder. Verewekansigde trossteekproefneming is gebruik om ses nie-skoolgeldskole in lae-inkomstegemeenskappe van die Kaapse metropool as data-insamelingsterreine te kies. Vir die tweede (kwantitatiewe) manuskrip is die vraelysantwoorde van 347(12-tot 21-jarige) deelnemers gebruik. ’n Gehipoteseerde model met die latente veranderlikes van geestesgesondheid, sielkundige stres, sielkundige sterkpunte (selfagting, veronderstelde maatskaplike steun en veerkragtigheid) en verskeie hanteringstrategieë is met behulp van strukturelevergelykingsmodellering getoets. Die gehipoteseerde metingsmodel was ’n goeie passing vir die data, en die strukturele verbande het aan die lig gebring dat die verwantskap tussen sielkundige stres en geestesgesondheid ten volle deur sielkundige sterkpunte bemiddel word. Sielkundige sterkpunte het dus ’n beskermende impak op die geestesgesondheid van adolessente wat teen die agtergrond van sosio-ekonomiese teenspoed stres ervaar. Die derde (kwalitatiewe) manuskrip van die studie handel oor deelnemers se persoonlike verhale van stressors, stres, streshantering, sielkundige sterkpunte en geestesgesondheid, wat deur middel van individuele, semigestruktureerde onderhoude met 14 (13-tot 17-jarige) deelnemers van vier skole ondersoek en op band opgeneem is. Die volgende temas het uit die tematiese data-ontledings geblyk: die gemeenskap as ’n bron van stres en steun, portuurverhoudings as ’n bron van stres, vrees vir mislukking op skool, vermydingshantering as ’n risikofaktor, selfagting as ’n beskermende faktor, veronderstelde maatskaplike steun en steunnetwerke as beskermende faktore, en probleemoplossingshantering as ’n beskermende faktor. Daarbenewens word ’n vierde kwalitatiewe manuskrip ingesluit om die menigte geweldverwante stressors te beklemtoon waarvoor die adolessente studiedeelnemers te staan kom. Hierdie deskriptiewe manuskrip verken 150 skoolgaande (13-tot 21-jarige) adolessente se geskrewe reaksies oor die geweld wat hulle al in hulle gemeenskappe moes aanskou. Die 150 adolessente is uit drie skole in drie verskillende lae-inkomstegebiede van die Kaapse metropool gekies. Die tematies ontlede reaksies van hierdie adolessente kan onder vyf geweldverwante temas ingedeel word, wat in hoofstuk 6 aan bod kom. Hierdie studie dra by tot kennis oor die geestesgesondheidvan Suid-Afrikaanse adolessente teen die agtergrond van sosio-ekonomiese teenspoed. Die bevindinge kan gebruik word as ’n grondslag vir strategieë om die geestesgesondheid van adolessente-in-gevaar te verbeter en geestesiekte by dié groep te voorkom.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107810
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