Psychosocial experiences of early adolescent girls in a private school setting
Early adolescent girls in a private school setting are in a vulnerable state on account of their gender, transitional developmental phase and a combined array of modern-day expectations and challenges. With many private schools expecting a 100% pass rate from their students, issues of competitiveness and achievement pressure may become prevalent. Research has shown that early adolescent girls are more susceptible to psycho-social problems than boys as well as girls of other ages, putting them more at risk of the effects of performance pressure, academic stress, depression and anxiety. Early adolescent girls’ vulnerability due to the impact that puberty has on their self-esteem as well as the fact that they are easily influenced by the opinions of others, causing them to be highly sensitive to the approval of others, may be compounded by pressures of the private school. The purpose and aim of this study was therefore to explore and describe the lived experiences of early adolescent girls in a private school setting so as to gain a deeper understanding of such experiences. In following this it was hoped that the study would offer the girls a ‘voice’ as well as create awareness of how they can be better supported in terms of their psycho-social development and well-being. The study was not viewed from one specific theoretical perspective but rather took into consideration various theories of development while undertaking the literature review, in order to gain a broader orientation of the subject at hand. The current literature with regard to the key concepts of the study formed part of the overview of the study. A qualitative approach was followed so as to understand the unique, true meaning of the girls’ experiences. A case study design allowed for a holistic, in-depth study of the social phenomenon at hand. The participants were ten early adolescent girls in Grade 7 in a private school in Northern Johannesburg who volunteered to take part in the study with the informed consent of their parents. The data obtained were viewed in line with an interpretive descriptive paradigm, which allowed the phenomenon to be studied through a ‘subjective lens’ while allowing for the formation of various realities. A deeper understanding of such realities in terms of the girls’ interpretations of their lived experiences was obtained through the data collection methods of semi-structured in-depth interviews, collages, confidential letters, journal Psycho-social experiences of early adolescent girls in a private school setting entries, field notes and researcher reflective notes. In combination with the researcher’s interpretation, this led to a richer, co-constructed, description of the girls’ experiences. The interpretive description allowed for the emergence of thematic patterns which revealed the findings of the study. The findings confirm that the girls are experiencing pressure to attain and maintain the high standard of the school. The findings further confirm that such pressures are increased by the early adolescent girls’ vulnerable developmental phase which places them in need of greater positive support from teachers, peers and parents to maintain healthy psycho-social development. The findings show that perceived rejection from peers and teachers has a negative effect on the girls’ self-concept. The findings further reveal that in considering the girls’ well-being they should be given a voice and be respected in their authentic uniqueness. Recommendations were made for the school to investigate the establishment of ‘mindfulness workshops’ to be run at the school, with the outcome that parents, teachers and students further develop skills in ways of supporting the girls’ healthy psycho-social development.
- Humanities