Title page for ETD etd-01092009-165934

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Wieruszowski, Leanne Clare
Email leannew@lantic.net
URN etd-01092009-165934
Document Title The experiences of adolescents dealing with parental loss through death
Degree MSD
Department Social Work and Criminology
Advisor Name Title
Dr J M C Joubert Supervisor
  • play techniques
  • bereavement
  • mourning
  • grief
  • death
  • loss
  • development tasks
  • development stages
  • adolescent phase
  • adolescents
  • experience
Date 2008-09-05
Availability unrestricted

This research focuses on the experiences of adolescents dealing with parental loss through death, irrespective of the age of the child at the time of loss. Through an increased understanding of this phenomenon, the researcher highlights the need for supporting and guiding adolescents who are dealing with parental loss. Role players are identified and insight into the task of assisting adolescents who are dealing with parental loss through death, is developed.

A qualitative approach was followed in order to gain in-depth data regarding the experiences of adolescents dealing with parental loss through death. The general orientation to the research methodology is discussed in chapter one.

The first objective of the study was to build a theoretical frame of reference regarding the field of adolescence as well as the influence of parental loss and the grief process, on this developmental stage. This objective is achieved in chapters two and three

The second objective was to conduct an empirical study on the experiences of adolescents who were dealing with parental loss through death. The researcher conducted interviews at the school in which she works. Play techniques were implemented by the researcher to assist in exploring the adolescentsí experiences and therefore facilitate the research process.

Themes and sub-themes were identified during the data collecting and analyzing processes. The findings are discussed in chapter four. The main themes, relating to the experiences of adolescents dealing with parental loss, identified in this study, are:

  • Emotions and needs vary and are linked to both the process of grieving and the development of a separate identity.
  • Although many possible support systems exist, insufficient guidance and support, both formal and informal, are being offered.
  • The adolescentsí focus on the past, present and future is affected by parental loss.
  • The relationship with the parents, both deceased and surviving, affects the adolescentsí functioning in the present.
  • Secondary implications of parental loss affect the adolescentsí experience of the loss.
  • Identity formation is affected by the bereavement process.
  • Risk and protection factors include present relationships and support systems; being offered the opportunity to grieve; spiritual beliefs and the adolescentsí behaviour.
  • Physical effects of dealing with parental loss though death included symptoms of depression.

The final objective of the research was to provide conclusions and recommendations and receives attention in chapter five. Recommendations are made to the South African Government, Department of Education and schools and include proposed strategies and policies for offering support to adolescents dealing with parental loss within the school systems. Recommendations to social workers and other professional support structures include bereavement training, flexible service delivery options and the developing and empowering of community-based structures.

Knowledge of the experiences of adolescents dealing with parental loss through death is increased and the need for offering support and guidance to this vulnerable group in our society receives attention through this research.

©University of Pretoria 2008

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