Older persons' experience of respect from middle adolescents in an economically vulnerable environment
Hayes, Jacobus Michael
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Literature on intergenerational relationships has indicated the importance of respect in these relationships. To date, research has focused mainly on defining the construct of respect or looking at how it presents itself within intergenerational relationships. Little attention has been paid to the experience of respect, leaving a gap, more specifically in the study of the way in which older persons experience respect within intergenerational relationships. Respect has been defined in current literature as a combination of behaviours, attitudes and feelings. Respect is always experienced in relationships between people and accordingly the self-interactional group theory (SIGT) was used as a theoretical framework for understanding older persons’ experience of respect in their relationships with middle adolescents. The focus was specifically placed on their relationships with middle adolescents because of rifts relating to their experience of relational interactions that have been found to exist in these relationships in studies focusing on older youth. Research was conducted in the economically vulnerable community of Vaalharts, situated in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, in which the importance of supportive relationships for older persons is especially relevant. The findings of the study could potentially lead to the development of programmes to strengthen these relationships. Twelve participants (9 female and 3 male) over the age of 60 took part in Mmogo-method® sessions in order to gain an understanding of their subjective experience of the construct of respect. By using the Mmogo-method®, visual data (photos of their presentations made for the Mmogo-method®) and textual data were obtained. In addition, self-reflective journals containing open-ended questions (completed voluntarily by the participants) added to the trustworthiness of the study by using more than one data-gathering method. All data were analysed to derive themes that painted a vivid picture of the older persons’ experience of respect. The photos taken during the Mmogo-method® sessions were visually analysed while textual data were analysed thematically. Findings indicated that the older persons linked respect to the constructs of care and love. It was also seen that certain behaviours, such as using appropriate language and appropriate forms of address, were important aspects of respect. Respect in the relationships between the older persons and middle adolescents has a reciprocal nature and the older persons portrayed attitudes of mutual respect in these interactions. They also expressed their need for middle adolescents to demonstrate their gratitude and, for their part, to have opportunities to model respectful behaviour to middle adolescents. Respect as a construct is experienced by the older persons as an interactional manifestation of the current definitions and forms of respect as presented in literature. It is recommended that similar studies be done with other groups of older persons in order to obtain a broader view of how members of economically vulnerable communities experience respect in their relationships with middle adolescents. The data in this study demonstrate what current literature says about respect, and adds to previous research by achieving an understanding of how older persons’ experience the construct rather than exploring only the definition of respect or how it presents in intergenerational relationships.
- Humanities