An appreciative inquiry into mothers' experiences of their relationship with their children in a low socio-economic environment
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A low socio economic environment poses a number of problems, such as low income, unemployment, learning disabilities and poor education, resulting in mothers often experiencing stress and depression. The emotional state of mothers contributes to the quality of the mother-child relationship. This study explored the experiences of mothers and their relationships with their children, while living in a low socio-economic environment. The study was undertaken from a positive psychology perspective, using appreciative inquiry (AI), a strength-based approach to change that uses a four dimensional consecutive cycle (referred to as the 4D cycle), namely discovery, dream, design and destiny phases. With the use of the AI approach attention is shifted away from the problem and focussed on existing strengths in order to enhance and build on these strengths. Understanding the unique experiences of mothers through AI provides insight into the unique qualities and strengths of mothers and how existing strengths contribute positively to their relationships with their children. In the process of identifying strengths and focusing on what works (the positive) excitement and eagerness to be ‘better’ is often created, and building on these existing qualities, ultimately leads to a more positive relationship between mothers and their children. In order to address the gaps in literature from a South African perspective, indigenous research is needed to gain an enhanced knowledge and understanding of mothers’ lived experiences. In order to achieve this, the present research was undertaken in three phases, each having its own particular focus. The main focus of this research was to use AI to explore and describe the experience of mothers from an LSEE in relating to their children. The study is presented in the format of three research phases and is reported in three articles. The first article reports on the first phase of the research, using a qualitative phenomenological design that explores and describes mothers’ experiences of their relationships with their children in an LSEE. The appreciative discovery process (best of what is) was used for the first phase of the 4D cycle of AI. The sample consisted of eight participants (mothers) from the East Rand of Gauteng who live in an LSEE. Three of these mothers participated in one-to-one interviews and the remaining five participated in a focus group discussion. The results indicate that despite hardships and challenges experienced as a result of living in LSEE, the mothers were still able to verbalise their experiences and emotions with regard to their relationships with their children on a very personal level. The mothers expressed great affection for and appreciation of their children, and shared positive stories. Even though positive stories were shared, the mothers voiced feelings of insignificance as mothers; fears of being criticised with regards to their parenting; and challenges experienced in dealing with misbehaviour, especially pertaining to typical adolescent behaviour. Secondly, through the discovery phase of AI, mothers were able to share experiences of their relationships with their children and were also able to ascertain existing strengths. In an LSEE little opportunity exists to share experiences. Being provided with such an opportunity seemed useful as mothers seemed to feel that they were not alone: they felt heard and realised that they were enduring the same or similar types of hardships as other mothers. The second article reports on the second phase of the research. This phase used a single instrumental case study that incorporated the last three phases of the 4D Cycle (dream-, design and destiny phase). The case study used AI to provide a better understanding of how mothers experience their dreams (what might be?) in order to design (what should be the deal? co-constructing) their destiny (how to empower, improvise, sustain?) in relation to their relationships with their children. A qualitative phenomenological design from an interprevistic approach was implemented. The sample consisted of eight mother participants from the East Rand of Gauteng who lived in an LSEE. Two focus group discussions as well as two individual interviews were conducted. During this phase of the research data was collected through the use of the World Café method (WCM). The results indicate that the mothers found it difficult to envision their dreams for their future relationships with their children: for some it was due to a lack of a mother role model in their childhood, and for all it was due to their own unsatisfied current needs as well as stress related to living in LSEE. The results indicated that, despite their challenges regarding envisioning the future, they could still design plans in an attempt to make their dream a reality, such as spending quality and special time with their children. The implementation of these plans seemed to bring about change in their relationships with their children. The aim of the third article was to make known the findings, challenges and valuable lessons learned from the facilitation and application of AI and WCM in an LSEE. Data was gathered from literature on the use of AI and WCM in communities, from the three focus group discussions and from the five individual interviews in the initial two phases of the research. Although many benefits can be related to the use of AI and WCM combined in an LSEE, challenges were encountered. However, if these methods were to be applied in similar environments the challenges could be overcome if the recommendations are taken into consideration. Of significance was that through AI and WCM mothers in LSEE felt supported, heard and understood. It created a support system for them to return to once the groups had disbanded. The main conclusion from this thesis is that the use of AI and WCM in this environment can provide a profound understanding of mothers’ own unique experiences of their relationships with their children. The researcher identified core issues that hindered the ability of mothers to focus on the positives and strengths of their relationships, thus enabling pathways of support to aid this vulnerable population group. Further the application of AI and WCM provided insight into mothers’ needs and brought about change, even though the positive outlook seemed short-lived as they returned to a stressful environment. This indicated that there is a need for long-term support. The benefits of using AI and WCM in combination are not only to understand mothers’ experiences but also to bring about change. Due to the complexity of people living in LSEE, recommendations such as those discussed in article 3 should be considered when applying AI and WCM in similar settings.
- Humanities