Re-constructing adolescent identity in the context of family violence within the Belhar community of Cape Town
Petersen, Charlene Augusta
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For many adolescents in South Africa, violence and crime constitute a way of life, having both direct and indirect effects on their psychological, emotional, developmental and physical wellbeing. Adolescent development has particularly been affected as it is embedded within the context of post-apartheid society. The process of identity development may be impacted by the culture of violence and particularly affected by family violence, leaving long-term effects that may further impact on constructing an integrated identity. Adolescents growing up in povertystricken communities with high unemployment, concomitant dysfunction within the family, lack of infrastructure, and high incidences of crime and violence have limited access to mental health services and with the increase of violence and crime infiltrating many homes, it is evident that there is a need for restorative therapeutic intervention with adolescents in South Africa. The overall goal of this study was to explore and describe how adolescent identity in the context of family violence can be re-constructed. In order to address this goal the study explored and described the subjective experiences of adolescents regarding their sense of self in the context of family violence as well as described how a psycho-educational strategy may be used as a method for re-constructing identity in the context of family violence. The study further explored, described and explained how the meanings adolescents from a Cape Town community give to family violence, contributed to re-defining their identity. A mixed-methods approach was used in the primary study. Twelve participants were purposively selected for the study and included both male and female adolescents with ages ranging from 15 to18 years from three secondary schools. The data were obtained through semi-structured individual interviews, psycho-educational intervention and pre-test and post-test assessment (Adolescent Self Concept Scale). The data was thematically and statistically analyzed. The research findings show that adolescents’ self-experience of family violence is complex and impacts on how they perceive themselves and interact with others, as well as how they foresee their future selves in a non-violent setting. The findings of adolescents’ exposure to psychoeducational intervention and Adolescent Self Concept Scale suggest a significant change in the identity formation process in terms of how adolescents perceive themselves and their interaction with others within the context of family violence. This process therefore allowed adolescents to re-construct identity, through redefining the meanings they attached to family violence. The implications of these findings are that adolescents exposed to family violence can re-define the meanings they attach to family violence and further facilitate identity re-construction. Consequently researchers and therapists can become more informed on how to approach identity issues as a process emergent from a relational field and how to facilitate re-constructing an integrated identity.
- Humanities