An exploration of the psychosocial experiences of women who head households.
Mkhize, Generose Nomusa.
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This study explored the psychosocial experiences of a sample of six females heading households in Imbali Township in the City of Pietermaritzburg (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). The term psychosocial is based on the idea that interconnected and interdependent factors which may include biological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, social, mental and material aspects are responsible for a person’s well-being, and impacts on their functional ability (“IASC Guidelines”, 2007). This study has sought to find out from women that head households what their psychosocial experiences are, and the effect this role has on their well-being. Exploration of the nature of the interpersonal relationships within the family environment, the nature of behavioural patterns within their families, the interaction with the family ecological environment and how they cope with stressful life events encountered during the execution of their roles were studied. In this exploratory qualitative study, participants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule and data was analysed using thematic analysis. Findings suggest that women heading households encourage their children to persist in education in order to secure a bright future for themselves. Women heading households were also found to enforce discipline in their households; discipline to which their children respond. Moreover, women heading households were also found to have adopted strategies that help them cope with their challenges, and those coping measures include having conversations with significant others and possessing what they referred to as a supernatural power. The women in the study were also found to be resilient in the execution of their role as heads of households and they remain resilient despite the challenges they encounter. Findings further suggest that women heading households experience discrimination from their extended families and society. These findings could mean that when research on women heading households is conducted, contextual factors should be taken into consideration.