Exploring the nature of self-identified strengths of families living in a resource-constrained environment in Ikageng, Potchefstroom
The family is a complex system embedded in every society. The family as a social institution has undergone a tremendous transformation over the past years, where members of a family represent more than just a collection of individuals. As a social institution, the family consists of members from different generations that share physical and emotional spaces in time. The transformation of the family as a social institution shifts the focus from a traditional view of the family to a contemporary view, where different types of families emerge. These types include: homosexual families, step-families, extended families, single parents, and child-headed families. In developing countries such as South Africa, families are exposed to numerous obstacles in their living environment that are translated into the interpersonal spaces of each family. Poverty and unemployment are at the forefront in contemporary South Africa, where families suffer from numerous constraints. However, an interesting characteristic of South African families is their adaptive and vibrant nature, where members face challenges together and overcome them by means of support and cohesion. In an effort to understand South African families entrenched in their natural living spaces, the resilience theory was applied to explore the self-identified strengths of families living in resource-constrained areas. There is a vast body of research that describes the family; highlighting their dysfunction and deficits, but providing little insight into the surviving nature of families living in environments with ever-increasing constraints. The aim of this study was to explore self-identified strengths of families living in a resource-constrained environment in Ikageng, Potchefstroom. This study was approved by the Health Research Ethics Committee (HREC) of the North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus. The researcher utilised qualitative research methods, applying a qualitative descriptive design and collecting data by means of participation learning action (PLA) techniques. Venn diagrams and free drawings from the researcher's PLA toolbox were utilised. These are methods that allow the researcher to gather information and understand the view of individuals, irrespective of their basic education level. Participating families were able to transfer their knowledge by means of visual representations, whereafter the researcher could ask questions and probe to understand the nuances of the visual representation linked to the research question. Visual data was used to stimulate conversations, and verbatim data was transcribed and analysed by means of thematic analyses. The findings of this study support the importance of a strength perspective on families and revealed four main themes. Families identified their strengths embedded in the complex interconnectedness between individual members and extended networks outside of the nuclear family. Firstly, relational strengths represent the repertoire of relational connectedness (interpersonal connections) in families and emerged as a core strength unfolding on three different levels of interaction. Within these three levels of interaction, each member of the family and the community is a resource into which families could tap during adverse circumstances. Secondly, the theme of spirituality and beliefs arose unsurprisingly, taking into consideration previous research that emphasises the centrality of spirituality in families across their lifespan. Spirituality and beliefs transcend the self of individual family members by creating a sense of meaning and harmony while connecting the self to other individuals in their nuclear and broader environment. A third theme was the reciprocal nature of support across generations in the families, where members share currencies ? either in the form of material or emotional support. These currencies of support are crucial to survival, especially in resource-constrained environments. Fourthly, families identified encouragement and aspirations as the most important strengths that feed into a feeling of hope. These findings contribute to empirical knowledge of the structure of families in a South African context; their self-identified needs; and, more importantly, the nuanced nature of these strengths against the backdrop of the current socio-economic climate.
- Health Sciences