Exploring psychosocial well-being in a group of marginalised African youth
Melato, Seleme Revelation
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This research using quantitative and qualitative methods studied the psychosocial well-being of marginalised youth of African descent in South Africa. The study of well-being amongst the youth has been the focus of many research studies in the past two decades (Bach, 2011; Koen, 2010; Ungar, 2005); hence the continuing intellectual debate on the best possible ways to promote youth well-being (Koen, 2010; Shah, Graidage, & Valencia, 2005; Van Schalkwyk, 2010). The major shift within the psychological sphere, i.e. from the illness model to positive psychology focusing on the enhancement of human capabilities as well as well-being (Seligman, 2004), has resulted in a greater need for studies exploring well-being, especially amongst the youth of South Africa. This study of psychosocial well-being was conducted in line with, amongst other theories, the Keyes and Lopez (2002) theory of complete mental health, viewing mental health as not only the absence of mental illness, but as high levels of functioning in the psychological, emotional and social dimensions of human behaviour. Of particular interest to the current author was the degree to which marginalised African youth could experience psychosocial well-being, considered against Jahoda‟s (1958) view of positive mental health, Ryff‟s psychological well-being model (Ryff, 1989, Ryff & Singer, 1995), Keyes‟ mental health continuum (1998, 2002, 2007), Wissing and Van Eeden‟s (2002) general psychological well-being factor, as well as Seligman‟s PERMA model (2011). Although some youth experience well-being and are flourishing, the urgent need for the development of wellness in youth was indicated by the findings of Keyes (2006) on adolescent mental health. In various studies, it was found that approximately 20% of youth experience mental illness, but Keyes (2006) questioned the quality of mental health of the remaining 80%, since he found that only moderate mental health was experienced in youth aged between 15-18 years. Although there have been a number of studies focusing on young people and their psychosocial well being, there is a lot that still needs to be done in terms of research and intervention. Van Schalkwyk (2009) indicated that although there is a dearth of validated data on the psychosocial well-being of the youth within the South African context; there is a need for more in-depth research on this subject. This study hopes to make a contribution in this regard. A mixed method research design was employed and the first quantitative phase (Article 1) used validated self-report questionnaires to measure the prevalence of psychosocial well-being amongst a group of marginalised African youth (N=794). These instruments measured psychological, emotional and social well-being (Mental Health Continuum-Short Form), coping self-efficacy (Coping Self Efficacy Scale) and symptoms of distress (Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale). A structural equation model was identified explaining the relationships between the three constructs used in the research. The second phase of the research (Article 2) was qualitative in nature and it explored, through the use of semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions (N=30), the personal narratives of the participants who (during the quantitative phase) were identified as high, moderate or low in their well-being. Themes and subthemes were identified that gave a qualitative picture of the well-being or lack thereof of the participants. In the third and final phase of the study, the data obtained from the two preceding phases as well as the literature review was used to formulate guidelines with specific strategies. These can be used by professionals working with the youth to help them harness their strengths in order to enhance their psychosocial well-being as well as lessen their symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Results from the quantitative component of this study was mainly that coping self-efficacy proved to positively explain the variance of mental health and well-being and negatively the symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Mental health and well-being also proved to be salutary antecedents of symptoms of distress. Themes were analysed from the qualitative data and the following wellness-enhancing themes emerged from the data analysis: altruism, emotional resilience, social strengths, empathy for others, a positive outlook towards life, goals and aspirations, a strong support system, such as a loving and caring mother, and a supportive community. Religion, Christian faith and values further emerged as a common theme across all three groups of participants. The thematic similar findings on wellness-hindering attributes among the participants included loss of family well-being, painful past life experiences, an absent father, emotional turmoil, and poor self-esteem. The results provided by both the empirical components of the study were used in the formulation of guidelines with specific strategies for a strength-based intervention programme aimed at the enhancement of coping self-efficacy and psychosocial well-being amongst the youth. The study was finally evaluated and conclusions were drawn, limitations exposed and recommendations made.
- Humanities