News & events


Lives and times of children in child-headed households

22 November 2016
12:30 - 13:30

Prof. Jace Pillay,
South African Research Chair in Education and Care in Childhood, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg

Date: 22 November 2016 

Time:  12h30 – 13h30

Venues: Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town 

As a result of HIV/AIDS child-headed families are increasingly becoming a reality in South Africa (Garson, 2003; Hlatswayo, 2004; Kapp, 2000; Sloth-Nielsen, 2003). This scenario is most likely to profoundly affect family life and structure in the country.  The lack of parental guidance and support is going to leave an indelible mark on the economic, social, psychological and moral well-being of children from child-headed households. Children are dependent upon parents for socialization, provision of affection and education, and parents are still the primary caregivers responsible for their children’s social education and self-actualization (Pillay & Nesengani, 2006). As such, one may argue that the absence of parents is likely to raise questions on the acquisition of values, beliefs and practices of children. This argument is supported by research which has indicated that children who head families struggle with issues such as self-confidence, self-esteem, emotional stability, poverty, health, group sociability and morality (Desmond, Richter, Makiwane & Amoateng, 2003;Le Roux, 1994; Louw, 1998).

Presentation available for download below:

Taking the above into consideration, this chapter integrates studies completed as part of a three year SANPAD funded project on child-headed families. The numerous mixed method studies conducted through questionnaires, individual and focus group interviews, projective tests and collages provide a vivid picture of the lives and times of children from child-headed families within their homes, schools and communities. The findings indicate the struggles of the children in terms of their living conditions, changing roles, community fears and school experiences which inevitably affect their psychological well-being. However, the outstanding feature of the multiple studies conducted in this research project is the resilience of some of these children. Hence, this chapter will examine adaptations, adjustments and survival mechanisms of children from child-headed families within an African socio-cultural context of child rearing practices.

Please note: The presentation is derived from a chapter in the book titled “Children in South African Families” which will soon be released.

The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The views and opinions expressed therein  as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of DST.

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