Children's experiences of the repositioning of their psychological birth order in a reconstituted family
Van Jaarsveld, Lizelle
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The aim of this study is to explore and describe children’s experiences of the repositioning of their psychological birth order in a reconstituted family. The aim of this study is also to contribute to a better understanding of this phenomenon to aid the parents of these children as well as professionals working with such families. The systems theory was used as the meta-theory of this study. Gestalt field theory formed the connection between the systems theory and Adlerian theory, to portray the interaction between the individual and the different subsystems of which they are part, and formed the lens through which the study was done. Adlerian theory was used to explain the subsystems function in the micro system, with the focus on children’s experiences of the repositioning of their birth order in a reconstituted family. A qualitative research method with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used as research design. Eight children took part in this study. The researcher used semi-structured interviews to explore their experiences of the repositioning of their psychological birth order and the data was analysed thematically. The researcher had a discussion with the participants’ parents to determine the children’s psychological birth order and to obtain background information regarding the original and reconstituted families. The findings indicated that children’s experiences in relation to their parents and siblings had the most profound effect on how they experienced the repositioning of their psychological birth order in a reconstituted family. It seemed that participants preferred their parents treating them congruent to their psychological birth order within the reconstituted family and they experienced incongruent treatment to their psychological birth order, as negative. Participants enjoyed being favoured by their parents. If the sibling who caused the repositioning was favoured, or his or her parents unfairly blamed the relevant participant, it contributed to tension in the sibling and child-parent relationships. Participants seemed to associate less time spent with parents as well as less attention from parents with step- and half-siblings in the reconstituted family. Participants expressed less responsibility in the reconstituted family as a favourable aspect and more responsibilities in the reconstituted family as a unfavourable aspect of being repositioned. In the participants’ experiences, which related to their siblings, the children seemed to defend their psychological positions in their renegotiation for new positions and roles in the reconstituted family often resulting in power struggles and sibling rivalry. Age and gender differences played a role in this process. When participants were ineffective in their negotiation of a new position within the new sibling subsystem, feelings of isolation were reported. Participants experienced frustration when they were unsuccessful in their negotiations regarding former roles associated with their psychological birth order in the new family system. Participants expressed companionship with a step- or half-sibling of the same gender as a favourable experience in their repositioning. The time elapsed since the reconstitution of the family, seemed to play an important role in how children experienced the repositioning of their psychological birth order.
- Humanities