Academic journal article Child Welfare

Differential Effects of Single and Double Parental Death on Child Emotional Functioning and Daily Life in South Africa

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Differential Effects of Single and Double Parental Death on Child Emotional Functioning and Daily Life in South Africa

Article excerpt

Parental loss can have catastrophic effects on child outcomes (Cluver, Gardner, & Operario, 2007; Whetten, Ostermann, Whetten, O'Donnell, & Thielman, 2011; Belsey & Sherr, 2011). These are direct in terms of bereavement and absence of the most important source of care, love, and protection. Such effects are then compounded by indirect ramifications resulting from subsequent care and interpersonal relationships. Orphanhood has been increasing, especially in developing countries, as a result of war, poverty, violence, and the ravaging effects of diseases such as HIV and AIDS (Belsey & Sherr, 2011). In the early days of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, widespread orphanhood was predicted (Bicego, Rutstein, & Johnson, 2003). Resource mobilization incorporated definitions of orphans as those children who had lost one or both parents. Such definitions conflated single and double orphans, where children with single parental death were combined with children whose parents had both died ( Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, 2004; Zhao et al., 2010). As the HIV/AIDS epidemic has progressed, it has become clear that such definitions need fine tuning, and that the effects of bereavement on child outcomes may vary according to type of bereavement experiences (Nyamukapa et al., 2010; Gregson et al., 2005).

Parental death has dramatic effects on children (Atwine, CantorGraae, & Bajunirwe, 2005; Rotheram-Borus, Stein, & Lester, 2006; Cluver, Gardner, & Operario, 2007). They are impacted directly by the bereavement experience (Rotheram-Borus, Weiss, Alber, & Lester, 2005) and the loss of key parenting figures in their crucial developmental years. They are also impacted indirectly (Cluver, 2011) by many of the linked ramifications of such deaths (Sherr & Mueller, 2009). Immediate economic and social/environmental changes often accompany such a loss (Cluver, Gardner, & Operario, 2009). Numerous studies have described a direct effect on education engagement and achievement (Operario, Cluver, Rees, MacPhail, & Pettifor, 2008). Orphan status has, not surprisingly, been associated with economic challenges and poverty (F loyd et al., 2007), particularly in regard to food, schooling, medical care, and clothing (Nyambedha, Wandibba, & Aagaard-Hansen, 2001; Nyambedha, Wandibba, & Aagaard-Hansen, 2003a). This in turn has affected nutrition (Mishra, Arnold, Otieno, Cross, & Hong, 2007), psychological adaptation, and functioning (Atwine et al., 2005). Family reorganization and reconstitution may follow (Ford & Hosegood, 2005; Hosegood, PrestonWhyte, Busza, Moitse, & Timaeus, 2007). Due to the lack of availability of resources, tension may occur between members of the extended family; this can lead to discrimination toward the orphan (Nyambedha et al., 2003a). Illness and trauma may have preceded the parental death (Ir win, Adams, & Winter, 2009; Sherr, Varrall, Mueller, Richter, Wakhweya, et al., 2008). Emotional adjustment may interfere with everyday development and learning (Sherr, Mueller, & Varrall, 2009b). Many orphans have elderly caregivers who are infirm or have only very basic services available (Nyambedha, Wandibba, & Aagaard-Hansen, 2003a; Nyambedha, Wandibba, & AagaardHansen, 2003b), thus also impacting their development. Due to the economic constraints of resources available, many children have to drop out of school to concentrate on income generation-some children have found it possible to do both (Nyambedha et al., 2001; Nyambedha et al., 2003a).

The onset of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa has been characterized as a catastrophic epidemic in terms of orphanhood and child outcome (Meintjes, Hall, Marera, & Boulle, 2010). Vulnerability has been couched almost entirely in terms of orphanhood, despite the fact that this may have overshadowed the real needs of bereaved children and the possible negative stigmatizing effects of orphan labeling (Akwara et al. …

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