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Young adults' experiences of respect in their relations with older people
Van Aardt, Janine Magdalene
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Previous research on respect in intergenerational relations showed a significant association with the sustainability of the relationship that exists between generations. Respect in intergenerational relationships is a relational phenomenon. As such, respect is defined as subjective experiences of interpersonal interactions between members of different generations. For the purpose of this study, intergenerational relationships refer to interactions between people older than 60 years (G1-first generation in a family) and younger people (between the ages of 20 and 30) who constitute the third generation (G3-third generation in a family). The theoretical frameworks that informed this study are a combination of the Interpersonal Theory, Interpersonal Communication Theory that informs the principles of the Self-Interactional Group Theory (SIGT). The Interpersonal Theory and the Interpersonal Communication Theory conceptualise interactions between people on an interpersonal level. The SIGT however gives meaning to interactions specifically between members of different generations. SIGT theory conceptualizes that intergenerational relations and its principles are rooted in the idea of stimulating effective relationships and supporting intergenerational cohesion. According to this theory, interactions between members of different generations always occur within an interpersonal context shaped by continuous interaction between them. This interpersonal context also determines the significance of communication within the interactions between generations. Extensive work on respect in intergenerational relationships has mostly been done in Asian and Western regions, with a specific focus on the typological forms of respect from the perspectives of younger generations. This resulted in the identification of 14 typological forms of respect for older people. Research on respect in Africa conducted in Ghana revealed that respect is a reciprocal construct, while a study in South Africa on respect between Zulu grandmothers and their grandchildren reported a decline in grandchildren's respect for their grandmothers. Little to no literature was found on young adults' in transition experiences of respect in their relations with older people which constitutes a conceptual gap in the field of contemporary intergenerational research in South Africa and motivates the focus of this study. This study explores respect from the perspective of Afrikaans speaking young adults' in their relations with people older than 60 years. Before conducting the research, ethical approval was obtained from the Health Research Ethics Council (HREC) of the North-West University, and the researcher adhered to the ethical guidelines prescribed by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). This research was conducted in a higher educational context, at the North-West University's Potchefstroom campus in South Africa. A qualitative approach was used to explore 23 (22 female and 1 male) Afrikaans-speaking young adults' experiences of respect in their relations with older people. This group was purposively chosen as being in transitional life phase-from dependence to independence and autonomy. Data were collected over the course of three days by means of the Mmogo-method®, a visual projective data-collection technique. The Mmogo-method® enables the researcher to collect culture sensitive data embedded in the lived experiences of the participants. Participants are provided with materials consisting of a lump of clay, grass straws, colourful beads and piece of fabric in a closed container. Participants were asked to use the material in the container to construct something that could demonstrate how they experienced respect in their relations with a person older than 60 years. The projections participants built served as the focus for subsequent discussion, in the course which they explained what they had made and its relevance to the research question. In addition, prompt questions were asked to stimulate a focus group discussion. Textual data were analysed by means of thematic analysis, and by incorporating the symbolic meaning of the visual representation with the text of each participant. To ensure the quality and enhance the trustworthiness of this study, credibility, transferability, conformability, dependability and integrity of the researcher were applied throughout the research process. Findings revealed that the young adults described their experiences of respect within a specific relational context which they share with older people. Furthermore, their respect for older people is supported by normative values that motivate the young adults to offer them respect. The young adults experience respect in the relational context as reciprocal: they give respect to older people by means of altruistic actions and by being present in the lives of older people. In turn, they receive emotional and material care from older people as a form of respect. The findings of this study inform research into the relational nature of intergenerational respect which may be drawn upon for the development of intergenerational programmes to promote sustainable cohesion in intergenerational relationships.
- Humanities