Orphaned adolescents and caregivers perceptions of their attachment relationship and coping strategies employed by the young: a case study of Metsimotlhabe
Munyua, Keoneetse Ellen
PublisherUniversity of Botswana, www.ub.bw
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An exploratory qualitative study was conducted among 10 orphaned adolescents, 10 caregivers and 5 key informants from Metsimotlhabe. The aim of the study was to explore perceptions of orphaned adolescents and caregivers regarding their attachment relationships and their coping strategies. More specifically, the study investigated the meanings that caregivers attributed to behaviours exhibited by adolescents that may be suggestive of attachment difficulties. It identified challenges faced by orphaned adolescents and their caregivers and strategies to overcome them. It also examined related coping strategies of the adolescents. Finally, it suggested interventions to enhance these relationships as well as adolescents’ coping skills. The integration of Attachment theory and the Ecological model of development was adopted as theoretical framework for the study. Participants were interviewed and the resultant data was analysed through the use of thematic content analysis. The findings of this study showed that attachment is reciprocal depending on attachment behaviour of caregiver and adolescent i.e. seeking proximity and responding to proximity seeking. Despite the fact that the caregivers had provided adolescents with basic needs, accepted them as part of the families, loved and not discriminated against them, some adolescents’ social and emotional needs appeared to be unfulfilled as evidenced by reported behaviour problems in adolescents. Findings further, indicated that some of the indisciplined adolescents were caused by the caregivers’ excessive anger and peer pressure. The findings also revealed that most of the orphaned adolescents accepted or gave in to challenges when they encountered them. These findings seem to agree with Bowlby’s attachment theory in that lack of close attachment relationships within the crucial, early years of development, hinders positive developmental outcomes and renders the child’s coping skills vulnerable to fear responses and to self-perceptions of weakness and helplessness. This review suggests the introduction of family-based intervention programmes for caregivers, orphaned adolescents and extended family members. These programmes should be designed to inform caregivers, adolescents and extended family members how to develop skills that strengthen family relationships.