Faith and resilience in child or youth-headed households in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
This study scrutinizes the correlation between faith and resilience of children and youths living without the continuous presence of adults. The question of the study is: How do faith and resilience link in the experiences of children and youths living and growing in child or youth-headed households (C/YHHs)? Falling at the intersection of studies in psychology and gender and religion, the study is framed by theories from theology and psychology namely faith, resilience, attachment, positive humanistic psychology, feminist spirituality and the feminist ethics of care within African women's theologies. These theories signpost the African feminist theological ethics of care (AFTEC) as a theory emanating from the findings. The study presumes that much research done on youth-only family units has focused on physical, socio-economic and educational matters. Few have focused on faith, few on resilience but hardly any, on the correlation between the two. Research has given reserved attention to spiritual and cultural dimensions of these essentially religious youths. The current study uses the phenomenological approach. Phenomenology denotes a philosophical movement and a research method of qualitative enquiry which bifurcates into related and parallel descriptive and interpretive 'streams'. The former describes the general characteristics and determines the essence of a phenomenon and the latter aims to interpret participants' experiences, emphasizing care, a concern of this study. Phenomenology’s radical, anti-traditional style of philosophizing overcomes the straitjacket of encrusted customs, evades impositions placed on experience in advance from religion or culture and rejects inquiry by authoritative, externally enforced methods. So, it fits this study of a relatively recent and rather unusual socio-cultural construct. The phenomenological method advocates freedom from prejudice thereby aligning with the feminist ethos of this study which overlooks gender and generation. Furthermore it discards imposed knowledge as authoritative and opens up other avenues of learning, such as intuition and emotion prevalent in qualitative research. Coherent with the objectivity required for phenomenology and due to the potentially sensitive nature of C/YHHs, the mixed-methods approach proved viable. It is a constructivist, post-structuralist process which uses multiple data-collection, analysis and inference techniques and procedures in a single study for breadth and depth of understanding. Compatible with mixed methods, interdisciplinary and methodological triangulation, which means taking into account a particular position in relation to two other points or coordinates, was applied. Triangulation involves considering various theories, processes, techniques, investigators or observers, sources, data-collecting and analysis tools and procedures was used. Varying techniques enhances understanding of phenomena. Consistent with mixed methods and triangulation, I used various sampling methods including non-probability, purposive, chain and criterion sampling. Accordingly, various qualitative data-collection methods, namely narrative, interviews, questionnaires, observing participants in ecological research sites and occupational research method were used. Quantitative data was collected using 40 individual and 6 group session questionnaires administered by community care workers. The research participants were not located in the typical research site but were identified and enlisted through occupational research. The data thus collected was incorporated to accomplish principles of triangulation. Additionally theses, journal articles, internet documents and CDs on CHHs, the South African Child Act, and a documentary entitled “A Child is A Child” yielded related data. The analysis presented diverse ideas which indicated that having lost primary attachment figures, some of the children and youths in C/YHHs continue to exhibit care-seeking behaviours. These include staking faith in God or other religio-cultural or spiritual entities as compensatory attachment figures. Such faith helps them cope with the challenges of growing adultness homes. The resilience thus experienced builds faith in themselves and in those entities that engendered the buoyancy at first. A feminist perspective views the youths’ leading in religio-cultural matters, approaching sacrosanct spaces and venerating the divine in the context of gendered and ageist religious practices as signs of faith interacting with their spirituality to instil valour. With ubuntu care and guidance such faith can be directed to knowable plausible divinity. The study implements the feminist ethic of care by promoting the African women theologians’ venture to interrogate religio-cultures. The concern is to amplify muted voices and flag the issues concerning the marginalized, in this case C/YHHs.