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Subjective experiences of happiness : a case for residential child care workers.

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The non-profit sector is one that is of great importance as it responds to the needs of society, and hence gives support to various social and economic endeavours. Particularly, residential child care work is a response to the ever increasing number of children who are orphaned, abandoned, neglected and affected by the HIV/Aids pandemic. Residential child care workers provide institutional care to such children. The role of a child care worker is one that is reported to be highly pressured and involves many challenges which have the potential of impacting on the quality of care that is provided by the care giver to the children. In light of the increasing research done on the area of happiness within the workplace which shows that happiness contributes to overall organisational success and helps employees cope with challenges this study explored this construct among residential child care workers; a research area which remains under researched. The aim of the study was to explore the subjective experiences of happiness among residential child care workers using positive psychology as a conceptual framework. The study sought to gain an understanding of the perceptions and experiences of happiness among residential child care workers through Seligman’s (2002) framework of achieving happiness through pleasure, engagement and meaning. The exploration of the subjective experiences of happiness among residential child care workers was done through the use of Fredrickson’s (1998) Broaden and Build Theory. The study used a qualitative research design and residential child care workers were interviewed on their perceptions and experiences of happiness. The findings suggested that, even through the challenges that the residential child care workers faced, there was still an overall sense of happiness that the care givers experienced in relation to their work. This was generally as a result of the nature of their work and their alignment to the overall mission of the children’s home. The findings suggested also that it was through the orientations of pleasure and meaning that the greatest happiness was experienced. This experience of general happiness in their work made the residential child care workers feel as though they could deal with challenges and also contributed positively to their role as child care givers. The findings of the study contribute to the increasing body of knowledge in the area of happiness and the experiences of residential child care workers. The findings can also help managers and directors of children’s homes know which aspects to encourage and cultivate in their employees for the experience of happiness and positive work relations and experiences. This can ultimately contribute positively to overall success of orphanages and children’s homes, and also to the quality of care that is given to children.


Thesis (M.Soc.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2012.


Child care workers--Job satisfaction--South Africa., Child care workers--Mental health--South Africa., Child care services--South Africa., Happiness--South Africa., Theses--Industrial psychology.