An exploration of adolescents' problems and ways of coping in a South African context.
Gillespie, Cecilia Veronica.
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Many areas of development converge as adolescents confront their major task of establishing an adult identity. However this is a complex task complicated by the difficulties experienced in the South African context. Concerns about health and well-being, coupled with research findings that emphasized adolescents' reluctance to seek help, prompted a review of adolescents needs. The present study explored the problems experienced and the coping styles used by a sample of adolescents living in the South African context. Participants' self-esteem was examined in relation to styles of coping that were employed. Data was gathered from questionnaires distributed to adolescents from three schools in the locality of Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, including one rural school and two urban schools. The final sample consisted of 362 subjects. The data were analysed using frequencies, factor analyses, Pearson's correlation coefficient and regression analyses. The results of the study showed that adolescents experienced problems which included difficulties related to school achievement and maintaining standards; money problems; interpersonal problems regarding relationships with parents and family, friends and partners; intrapersonal problems, dealing with personal problems, depression and not wanting to live; and future related concerns, involving qualifications, careers, and employment. Three coping style described strategies employed by adolescents to manage their concerns: Internal coping, Active coping, and Withdrawal or an Avoidant style of coping. Of the three styles participants used an internal style of coping most frequently overall. However, all styles of coping were used interchangeably in order to solve problems of different types. Coping styles were found to be specific to particular problem domains. Analysis of self-esteem was carried out for participants from one urban school only, as the scale did not meet the criteria for reliability for the remaining two schools. Associations between self esteem and coping styles showed that a negative relationship existed between an avoidant coping strategy and self-esteem, and a positive relationship existed between self-esteem and an active coping style. Findings also showed the greater the degree of avoidance in problem solving the lower the expected level of self-esteem. This study presents findings that show evidence of adolescents' difficulties and stresses, and an emergent need for assistance at a time of change and transformation in South Africa. Where better to address these needs than in the educational environment within the framework of Guidance and Counselling. The results of this study may inform and render assistance in constructing an appropriate Life Orientation and Guidance curriculum for all schools, that will address current needs of adolescents as they confront the chief task of adolescence, that is the formation of an adult identity, a South African identity.
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