An ecosystemic perspective on the raising of deaf children by hearing parents in South Africa : a mixed methods study.
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Deafness is one on the most common types of disability in South Africa with 90% of deaf children being born to hearing parents, many of whom are unprepared for the consequences of deafness. Since deafness is an invisible disability, the severity of its impact upon both the child and the family is often underestimated. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of hearing parents raising deaf children. Thus, the primary research questions were: What are the experiences of hearing parents raising deaf children in South Africa, and how do various ecosystemic variables affect the way they manage their parenting role? This study was informed by the ecological systems theory which is the theoretical framework that underpins this study. The research paradigm shaping this study was pragmatism, while the strategy used was phenomenology. The mixed methods approach was employed, using both qualitative and quantitative approaches concurrently in a triangulation design. The findings emanating from the quantitative data served to complement the findings from the qualitative data. These findings were corroborated in the interpretation stage. The findings, representing the lived experiences of hearing parents raising deaf children, show that although the parenting experiences differ according to the unique circumstances in the family, school and community, there are several commonalities. These include issues associated with the diagnosis and parenting of deaf children. Some of these issues included the challenge of communicating with the deaf child, the financial burden, stigmatization from the general public, strained interpersonal relationships, concern about the child’s future, as well as lack of opportunities for the Deaf to study at tertiary institutions and limited employment opportunities for deaf persons. The findings from both sets of data reveal that, despite the resilience of participants, there is a need for formal support for parents from professionals in the community, as well as informal parental support from the family, friends, and community members, including other hearing parents raising deaf children, and the need for a central location to access information on deafness and related matters. Recommendations were made to address these issues, with a view to facilitating the emotional well-being of hearing parents raising deaf children, and consequently improving the quality of life of the deaf child and the family.