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Intergenerational relationships: experiences of grandmothers in caring for their grandchildren in an urban area in KwaZulu-Natal.

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In some regions of the world, the practice of grandparents raising their grandchildren is not a new phenomenon. It has been observed that grandparents, particularly grandmothers, are increasingly taking on the parenting role and this is not surprising. Many South African children's main carers are their grandparents as a consequence of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, unemployment, and other cultural challenges. Taking on the parental role, for most grandparents, comes with enormous financial, emotional, and social hardships. However, some grandparents manage to survive through the challenges by finding several coping strategies. Since studies have shown that grandmothers are more likely to be found raising their grandchildren than grandfathers, this study aimed to explore the perspectives and experiences of grandmothers in caring for their grandchildren in an urban area of KwaZulu-Natal. It specifically aimed to identify factors that influenced grandmothers to assume responsibility for their grandchildren, to describe the challenges experienced by grandmothers in raising their grandchildren, and finally, to establish the coping mechanism used by these grandmothers to address the challenges being experienced by them. To accomplish this, individual in-depth face-to-face interviews were conducted with fifteen grandmothers from uMlazi township for about 10-20 minutes. According to the results of a thematic analysis, several factors prompted grandmothers to take on the burden of rearing their grandchildren. While some took on the role due to unforeseen circumstances such as death of parents, teenage pregnancy, abandonment and neglect, and absent parents- some willingly or voluntarily took on the role to avoid being lonely. They perceived the parental role as giving them hope for the future and embraced every moment of it. The findings revealed that most grandmothers are severely impacted in their caregiving position. They face several financial, social, emotional and sometimes health-related challenges, and while financial challenges appeared to be the most prominent, it was discovered that their primary sources of income are child support grant, and baking and selling of goods. Unfortunately, none received pension grant (since only one was eligible but lacked proper documentation.). To empower grandmothers, to encourage them to continue being the family pillars and to promote generational relationships, workshops on skills training, money production, and food gardening initiatives, for example, are recommended. To assist with the emotional burdens, support groups should be formed, and counselling programmes or sessions should be provided for grandparents. District/Municipal leaders should collaborate with NGOs to find possible ways of giving support to grandparents.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.