Young adults' experiences of their relationships with familialy-related older people
Intergenerational relationships can be defined as interactions between members of different generations. There are two different groups of intergenerational relationships, historical and familial. The familial relationship consists of members who are familially related, while historical generations can be viewed as a cohort, or a group of people who have experienced similar historical events, because they are the same age or have lived through the same historical period. Most research in South Africa has focused on intergenerational relationships among African families. Research into these families highlights the role of grandparents as people with wisdom, life experience and the educative relationship they have with their grandchildren. Grandchildren, on the other hand, have to take care of their grandparents and respect them as older people. Members of the different generations provide social support, despite the fact that they are not familially-related. The norms that guided the interactions between these two generations provide individuals with a sense of continuity and stability. Social theories regarding intergenerational relationships are: the solidarity model, the solidarity and conflict model, and ambivalence. Current theories from the psychological perspective are: intergenerational intelligence and self-interactional group theory (SIGT). Little research has been conducted into intergenerational relationships among white familial generations in South Africa even though the phenomenon has been widely researched internationally. In order to establish the nature of the intergenerational relationship, young adults’ lived experiences of their relationships with older people was the focus of this research. This focus has been motivated by the fact that young adults and older people can benefit from effective intergenerational relationships; young adults provide a source of physical and emotional care for older people, where the older person in turn provide a source of affirmation and shared experience for young adults. This research is further motivated by the fact that it cannot be assumed that white generations in South Africa are necessarily following international trends. The study was conducted at the North-West University, at Potchefstroom in South Africa. Psychology Honours students were purposively selected to participate because of their age group as young adults, and their knowledge of human behaviour. It was thought that their description of their relational experiences would be of particular interest. Nineteen young adults (eighteen women and one man) aged 21 to 30 formed part of the study. Ethical approval for the research was obtained from North-West University. The participants gave informed consent that their participation was voluntary, and that they had been made aware that they could withdraw from the study at any time for whatever reason without any negative consequences. They were provided with the materials of the Mmogo-method®, which consist of clay, straws and colourful beads, and were invited to make a visual representation of their relationship with a person older than 60 years. When all the participants had completed their visual presentations, the researcher asked what each had made and why they had made it. An informal group discussion was conducted after each participant had told the others what they had made. During the discussion participants shared their subjective view of their experiences of their relationship with older people. The researcher employed visual data analysis and discourse analysis to analyse the data. Different guidelines were applied to ensure the trustworthiness of the research process and the findings. The results revealed that young adults experienced four types of relationships, which are presented as typologies. The two axes which describe the four types of relationships are: intimacy (physical and emotional) or distance and empathy or judgemental. The four types of intergenerational relationships that emerged from the combination of the different axes were: effective, normative-guided, ineffective, and double-bind. These findings can be used to develop programmes and interventions to promote intergenerational relationships. They also provide an opportunity for cross-cultural and international data to be compared with the four different relationship types.
- Health Sciences