Adults' experiences and perceptions of resilience: overcoming adversity in a high-risk community

Weakley, Donna
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Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch
Many adults living in previously disadvantaged communities were confronted with daily racism, oppression and the abuse of human rights during the apartheid government's ruling of South Africa. Since the demise of apartheid, however, many of these same adults have continued to be challenged by adversities, such as crime, violence, unemployment, poverty, gangsterism and drug and alcohol abuse on a daily basis. Despite these adversities many adults nevertheless manage to cope and thrive. Yet, little research regarding the nature of adult resilience within high-risk communities, especially within the South African context, exists. The aim of this study was to gain insight into, and understanding of, adults' experiences of resilience within a high-risk South African community. In order to address the aims of the study, a basic interpretive qualitative study was undertaken. A high-risk community on the Cape Flats, Western Cape, was selected as the site for data collection, as it was known that adults in the community were exposed to high incidences of crime, violence, poverty, unemployment and gangsterism. The selected participants were viewed, both by themselves and by other community members, as resilient as they had managed to overcome years of racism, oppression and the abuse of human rights at the hands of the apartheid South African government. Additionally, participants had had to fight the harrowing effects of negative influences on a daily basis. The findings of this study indicated that, despite being confronted with ongoing extreme situations of adversity, the participants managed to cope and remain optimistic. Resilient attributes, such as intrapersonal, interpersonal and community resources, were found to contribute to adults' experiences of resilience. Intrapersonal resources, such as the maintenance of a positive attitude, the ability to set goals and the willingness to make sacrifices in order to achieve personally set goals, emerged. Other intrapersonal factors which were attributed to the adults' experiences of resilience related to the awareness of, and dedication to, future planning and the importance of maintaining a healthy body and mind. Interpersonal factors which came to the fore related to recognition of the importance of family relationships, involvement in activities which served to uplift and empower others, and acknowledgement of the need to mix with a diverse group of people in order to gain exposure to new ideas and experiences. Community resources were recognised as playing an additional role in supporting adults in their quest for success, with resources, such as religious organisations, schools and clinics, being identified by the participants concerned. Despite exposure to adversity, resilient adults in high-risk communities were found to make use of three sources of resources and to continue to remain hopeful and positive about their future. This study demonstrates, then, that resilience in a high-risk community is related to the use of intrapersonal, interpersonal and community resources.
Thesis (MEd (Educational Psychology)--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.
Resilience, Adversity, Protective factors, Risk factors, Dissertations -- Educational psychology, Theses -- Educational psychology