An exploration of the intergenerational relational experiences between grandmothers and their grandchildren in an African context
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The composition of society is rapidly changing as the elderly population is increasing dramatically. In South Africa, black grandmothers play an important role in intergenerational relationships as they take on the responsibility of caring for their young grandchildren because of HIV/Aids, migration of the parents or other economic difficulties. As the grandmothers and the children are raised in different time–periods, it can be difficult for them to understand one another. Since healthy relationships with older persons in the early years lead to secure attachments, the relationship between grandmother and grandchild holds serious implications for the development and view of the world of the child. Research of this nature can help to develop healthy connections with a younger generation which again can help older adults to feel a greater sense of fulfilment. In fact, linking older adults with youth can provide advantages for both generations to thrive as people. Understanding the developmental life tasks and cognitive development of the generations can also assist to effectively deal with different perspectives of the interactions and communication processes between grandmothers and their grandchildren, thus helping both generations to thrive as people. Healthy interaction between grandmothers and grandchildren are guided by clear structure, which means that grandmothers can provide a trustworthy and predictable interpersonal environment to assist their grandchildren to define and clarify their experiences, whislt nurturance implies that grandmothers are warm, tender, soothing, calming, and comforting. When engaging with the grandchildren, one can say that grandmothers provide excitement, surprise and stimulation and simultaneously challenge the children which means that grandmothers encourage grandchildren to expand their behavioural repertoire and become more independent. Grandmother ? grandchildren interactions are informed by specific parenting styles which are referred to as a group of attitudes toward children that create an emotional climate in which the intergenerational relationships between the two generations are expressed. The manner, therefore in which grandmothers and grandchildren communicate with each other, as well as the content of the conversations, help to shed light on the nature of the relationship between the two generations. This research aims to gain a better understanding as well as different perspectives of the interactions and communication processes between grandmothers and their grandchildren. A convenience sample was employed to obtain 17 grandparents between 71 and 96 years and older, and their grandchildren in their care, boys and girls between ages 4 and 13 years old. The criterion was the availability of participants on the specific day of data gathering. The intergenerational reflective listening technique (IGRT) was used for data gathering while both generations are present. In terms of the IGRT, the researcher requested the children to sit in an inner circle and answer questions about the important places that their grandmothers tell them about. The researcher also explored the manner in which this information was communicated to the children. As the study involved older persons and very young children, special attention was paid to ethical considerations. Ethical approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of the North–West University, Potchefstroom Campus, as part of a larger project, being: “An exploration of enabling contexts (05K14).” The main finding of the study is that type of information which is transferred from the grandmother to the younger generation is educational in nature with instrumental support as a sign of love and care. The grandmothers teach the children norms, values and life principles. During the younger age, children conform to the teachings of the grandmothers, which evoke feelings of pride and appreciation from the grandmothers. This confirms solidarity in the relationship. On the other hand, the same relational definition does not apply to the young adults and the grandmothers explained their strained relationship with the young adults as out of their control. It is also clear that the way the two generations display love and affection are instrumental in nature. Although the IGRT is considered as an effective method of collecting data of this nature, the limited time available for this study resulted in the collecting of only one data set. One of the recommendations is further study with more than one group of participants. This includes grandmothers with young grandchildren as well as grandmothers with younger adults.
- Humanities