Exploring the needs of adolescents in divorced families in a South African Military context
Botha, Susanna Johanna
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Divorce and family disruption are growing phenomena in the world and a reality in many children‟s lives. Almost half of all divorced families in South Africa have children under the age of 18 years. Divorce is a traumatic experience for children. Adolescent children in particular experience divorce as distressing. Adolescent children need to face numerous challenges while going through the transitional phase between childhood and adulthood. They are in the process of identity formation and rely on their parents' support and presence to develop a strong and positive identity. The Military is often described as a selfish entity, which demands members' undivided attention and loyalty. When Military families go through a process of divorce, they need to face the trauma of the divorce as well as the specific demands of the organisation. Adolescent children from divorcing families in a Military context experience specific needs, and their parents and the Military as organisation have a definite role to play in fulfilling these needs. This study focused on exploring the needs of adolescent children in divorced families in a South African Military context. A significant amount of research has been done on adolescent children in divorced families, but little is known about the needs of adolescent children in divorced families in a South African Military context. Hence, it is in this particular area that this study endeavours to make a contribution. The research was conducted in three Military bases in the Cape Town metropole area. Nine participants (five females and four males) consented to participate in the study. The size of the sample was not predetermined, but was based on data saturation. Participants were purposefully selected on the basis of the following: they are adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 years, they have parents whose divorce process has been finalised, and one or both of their parents are employed by the Military. Data was collected through conducting semi-structured one-on-one interviews with all participants. A semi-structured interview schedule assisted the researcher to facilitate the interviews for consistency. The researcher was able to validate data and elaborate on certain issues during interviews. Data was analysed through thematic analysis and different themes and sub-themes were defined. The researcher ensured the trustworthiness of the research process by following the guidelines as suggested by Lincoln and Guba (1985). The study found that adolescent children in divorced families in a South African Military context have specific needs and that their focal need was for emotional support. They need their parents to communicate openly with them regarding the divorce process as well as the reasons for the divorce. Adolescents in Military divorced families long for a good relationship between them and their parents. They need to feel loved and want their parents physically and emotionally present in their lives. Participants need from the Military and schools to offer therapeutic support services as well as group sessions for adolescent children in Military divorced families. Although their basic psychological needs were met by the residing parent, they need to know that the newly formed single-parent family of which they now form part will be able to survive financially. Some researchers found that adolescent children from divorced families tended to reject faith. However, participants in this study indicated that they strongly needed support from their spiritual organisations and youth movements. In order to meet the needs of adolescent children in divorced families in the South African Military context, parents need to stay involved in their children's lives and communicate in an open and honest way with them. Military social workers, psychologists and chaplains need to ensure that therapeutic services are available to adolescent children of divorcing parents and that the adolescents attend these sessions. Work-related Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) could be put in place to ensure that all adolescent children from divorcing families attend therapeutic sessions. Group sessions should be available and accessible for adolescent children in divorcing Military families.
- Humanities