How do adolescents perceive and experience poverty and the stigma associated with poverty?
Nene, Siphumelele Nkosingiphile.
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The objectives of this study were to explore adolescents’ perceptions and experiences of poverty and its associated stigma when at school and within their communities. The study attempted to do this by uncovering the effects of poverty on adolescents’ lives; exploring their understanding of the meaning of being poor; exploring how the poverty-related stigma impacted their self-esteem, identity and experiences of the world; and investigated the elements of stigma that maintain the social distance between adolescents from poverty-stricken households and their peers. The study employed a qualitative research design. It used a focus group approach in conjunction with participatory research techniques such as ranking exercises. The issues that the participants raised revolved around a lack of access to money and how this in turn resulted in a lack of access to many other things, which led to a low quality of life for poor children and youths. The definitions they gave of the concept of poverty made reference to a lack of access to things such as houses, food and money. Other indicators of poverty that were mentioned related to the physical and psychological manifestations of the problem. The causes of poverty identified by the participants could broadly be grouped into two groups, namely financial aspects, and personal and family aspects. The issues the participants raised relating to poverty indicated that many of the problems faced by communities, families and children affected by the AIDS pandemic are linked to poverty. Conclusions from the study demonstrated that poverty is multidimensional in nature and therefore affects children and their families in a multitude of ways. The results also showed that the issues mentioned by the participants were not just products of poverty but problems in their own right.