Investigating moral identity in child–headed households
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The development of a moral identity has been closely linked with parental care. Within the HIV/Aids context, concern about the moral actions of South Africans inspired an investigation into the Gestalt field of Zulu child-headed households, as the lack of adequate parental care threatens the development of moral identity in these households. As substitute parents, the adolescents in the Zulu child-headed households are responsible for enhancing moral identity in their siblings while their own moral identity is still developing. Since moral identity development occurs within their field of living experience, an investigation of the field of Zulu child-headed households was conducted in order to identify the aspects that can be utilised to develop a model that will empower the heads of the Zulu child-headed households to enhance moral identity development within their households. This was based on the Gestalt theoretical paradigm. The Gestalt theory accepts that people are part of their environments or “field”, and that the meaning of existence of the individuals in the Zulu child-headed households has no meaning outside the context of their environments with which they form a unified interactive whole through their mutually interactive forces. A mixed-methods approach was used to investigate the Gestalt field of 60 adolescents in Zulu child-headed households in the Mkhondo municipal area. The exploration of the Gestalt fields of the adolescents was described in four articles and the aspects that can be used to develop the model were identified in the conclusions and recommendations section of the manuscript. The aim of the first article was to investigate the aspects of the field of Zulu child-headed households in the Mkhondo municipal area relating to their subjective reality of the kinship support and associated needs they experienced within their dual roles as members of the Zulu child-headed households and substitute parents. Perceptions of what the adolescent heads in Zulu child-headed households viewed as helping their siblings become „good people‟ were investigated in the second article. The aim of the third article was to explore whether ethnic membership is one of the core constructs in moral identity development of adolescents in Zulu child-headed households, as ethnic identity in the Zulu culture is strongly integrated with a moral identity. The fourth article investigated the figuration of moral identity in the field of these adolescents, by comparing moral variants to various other characteristics of their field. The aspects of the Gestalt field that had been identified as useful for the development of the model revolved around three main themes, namely: associated with the usefulness of the school environment; overlapping Eurocentric and Afrocentric characteristics of identity;, and helper characteristics. Recommendations were made about aspects that could enhance the practical value of policy decisions based on facilitating awareness of various aspects of moral identity development; adjustments in the life orientation curriculum; and expanding the role of support staff in schools.
- Health Sciences