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African constructions of parenting : exploring conceptions of early attachment with isiZulu-speaking community caregivers.

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John Bowlby made a profound contribution to the field of early parenting with his theory of attachment. He suggested that attachment theory has universal applicability. However, it has been argued that attachment theory is based upon a Western worldview, and as such, lacks applicability in cross-cultural contexts. In light of this objection, this study aimed to examine the relevancy of attachment theory within the South African context. In order to do this, a qualitative research design, employing focus groups, was set up to explore isiZulu-speaking mothers’ constructions of infant-caregiver relationships. Participants were recruited from two Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in KwaZulu-Natal. Each participant partook in three focus groups. The focus group data was analyzed using a form of thematic analysis. The group discussion provided support for attachment theory in the South African context. However, there appeared to be some cultural variations in the ways in which the attachment relationship is carried out within this context. In particular, it appeared that isiZulu-speaking mothers employ physical touch and a rapid response style with their infants. Furthermore, evidence emerged to suggest that there are certain barriers to the attachment relationship in South Africa. Finally, this research study showed that urbanization has had an important impact on parenting. As such, from this research, it can be concluded that attachment interventions are useful in South Africa, yet these may need to occur alongside other interventions. There is also room for further research to explore understandings of attachment within broader population groups, including fathers and grandmothers.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2013.


Parenting--KwaZulu-Natal., Parent and child--KwaZulu-Natal., Attachment behaviour--KwaZulu-Natal., Zulu (African people)--Attitudes., Theses--Clinical psychology.