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Strategies to bring about change: a longitudinal study on challenges and coping strategies of orphans and vulnerable children and adolescents in Namibia

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Longitudinal research provides insight about the life trajectories of children, the challenges that children experience in different phases of their lives, and the way children cope with these challenges. The article examines the perspectives of 14 orphaned or vulnerable children, initially aged 9 to 12 years (in grades 3 and 4), concerning changes in their difficulties and coping strategies. The children participated in the research in 2003 and again in a follow-up study in 2010 to 2012. Focus group discussions with the children/adolescents were used, as well as child-orientated methods such as drawings, and in-depth interviews with the adolescents and caregivers. Most of the participants described their life situation as better at the time of the 2010/12 study than it had been in 2003. In general, they were receiving more financial support than before from their immediate and extended family or were supporting themselves. One important change since 2003 was that nine of the 14 had since received a state-provided child welfare grant for at least some years. Also, those who said they had previously experienced mistreatment had since left these home situations. The children's agency in making positive changes to their life situations is described by the participants. As adolescents, they tried to access family support by actively asking for financial assistance, and in return they generally felt obligated to support the family once they began earning an income. The strategies they most used to get away from abusive home situations were to inform a relative about the mistreatment or to run away. Children's and adolescents’ limitations concerning strategies for improving their adverse living situations are also discussed.

Keywords: coping; family relationships; longitudinal study; resilience; social capital; sub-Saharan Africa

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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