Young female adults' experiences of respect in relationships with older people
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This research formed part of a broader research project that explored respect in relationships between young female adults and older people (60+ years) in a South African context. Different themes emerged from this research such as the motivation younger people have for respecting older persons; as well as different forms of giving and receiving respect. This research will specifically focus on themes that emerged inductively about the relational context in which the experiences of respect were expressed and the challenges of respect in the interpersonal experiences. It has been recorded in literature on intergenerational relationships that respect is not only an essential element in these relationships but also that it contributes to constructive relationships. Most of the research about respect has been conducted in Asian and Western countries, while some research has also been done in Ghana, Africa. The above mentioned research findings identified specific behavioural forms of respect, and attitudes and/or emotions associated with respect. Furthermore it has been found that respect can either be earned or deserved, or not, depending on whether and to what extent the person concerned is considered to have met certain requirements. Little research has been done on how people, especially young female adults in South Africa, experience respect in intergenerational relationships. Experiences of respect between people from different generations always take place in an interpersonal context and therefore the Self-Interaction Group Theory (SIGT) was used to understand young female adults’ experiences of respect in relationships with older people. Following SIGT, for the purposes of this study respect is defined as the subjective experience of the relational interactions between people. The focus in this study falls on the experience of respect in relationships with older people from young female adults’ perspective. Traditionally female gender roles have been associated with care. However, these roles changed to more flexible gendered roles and today women are not able to adopt many different roles. The past generations’ women took care of their older parents, whereas in the present women also pursue careers and this may have an influence on their interactions with older people as they may not necessarily be able to take care of the older people anymore. The research project was approved by the Ethics Committee of the North-West University. A qualitative research method informed by an exploratory and descriptive approach was used in an attempt to describe the participants’ subjective experiences of respect in the relationships they have with older people. A purposive sample was used and 26 women (between 21 and 28 years old) who are post-graduate psychology university students in the North West, South Africa, participated in the study. The study used a homogenous group of participants in order to get a detailed picture of their experiences. Young adults are in a transitory phase of their lives and research indicated that it is important to investigate their attitudes towards older people because they are likely to form new values, because their lives and behaviours are more influenced by their peers and because they have less parental supervision. Data was collected in three data-gathering sessions over the period of three days. Textual and visual data was collected through the use of the Mmogo- method®, a projective visual research method which uses a focus group approach. The Mmogo- method® material consists of a lump of malleable clay, different sizes and colours of beads and dried grass stalks of different lengths. Participants are provided with the open-ended materials and based on an open-ended prompt, they are requested to create a visual representation, which in this research was: Please use the material provided and create anything that can tell us more about how you perceive respect in relation to a person, or persons older than 60 years of age. After the exercise participants were asked to explain what they have created. A collaborative effort of co-constructed meanings took place as the visual representation of each participant became the stimulus material for group discussions. The visual representations of participants were photographed and analysed using visual analysis, while the digital recordings of the individuals’ explanations of their visual representations as well as the group discussions were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. Trustworthiness was ensured by applying four strategies, including: credibility, transferability, dependability and conformability of the research findings. The findings revealed that the relationship with older persons is subjectively described in terms of emotional or cognitive experiences and associated with specific relational contexts. In the familial and social context the experience of respect were linked with care and most of these relationships were described as affectionate/emotional. In the familial and social contexts, older persons were placed in a one-up position with the young adults, since the young adults want to obey and/or honour them. Some described the relationship as a relationship where they interacted as equals. In different contexts, work related, educational and familial, young adults expressed ambivalent emotions: some expressed admiration and love, while others expressed frustration and anger. In the work-related and educational relational contexts, the relationships were experienced as being formal and described in cognitive terms. In these relationships young adults expressed frustration and anger if their needs were not addressed based on how the relational context defined the relationship. For example in the educational contexts, the needs of the young adults were to get clarity on learning content, to receive support to reach their goals, and to reach emotional safety. Young female adults indicated that respect towards older persons is no longer based on the age of older persons. It rather depends on the reciprocal actions and reactions between young adults and older persons; and that it depends on how the relationship between the generational members develops over time, as well as the ability of generational members to bridge the distance between them and to adopt each other’s life worlds, whilst refraining from judgemental and stereotypical assessment of older persons. This study hence holds important implications for the creation of intergenerational programmes in order to enhance relationships between young adults and older people. A specific contribution of the findings is that when planning interventions intergenerational programmes should be designed to take into consideration the specific interpersonal context. Furthermore, the definitions of respect as held by both of the generational members should be considered in planning intergenerational interventions in specific interpersonal contexts.
- Humanities