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What's new in research - Newsletter - November 2012

This issue reviews seven of the twelve papers from the recently published special issue in the African Journal of AIDS Research on resilience and coping strategies of HIV-affected children in sub-Saharan Africa. These qualitative studies show a neglected perspective on the suffering and hardship experienced by children affected by HIV and AIDS in the region, highlighting the ways in which children can participate actively in addressing and improving the difficult challenges they face. Despite serious methodological shortcomings in some of the studies, the papers as a whole argue that resilience shown by children is the outcome of both their agency and active participation, as well as support they receive in their social environments.



 Resilience through participation and coping-enabling social environments: the case of HIV-affected children in sub-Saharan Africa  

Skovdal, M., & Daniel, M. (2012). African Journal of AIDS Research (AJFAR), 11, 153-164. doi: 10.2989/16085906.2012.734975     


The authors point out that extrapolation of Western notions of childhood as being innocent and playful, tend to represent children affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty as 'troubled' and in need of adult intervention. Indeed, one perverse consequence of this perspective is that children who need access to resources are forced to act in ways that satisfy what the authors call "the international aid industry criterion of vulnerability" in order to receive them. This introductory paper covers culturally varying understandings of childhood and debates in the field of resilience and coping.  The eleven studies in this special issue map the characteristics that enable children to cope in the face of extreme hardship and stigma, which affects not only individuals but also whole households and communities, including children.    

 Safeguarding inheritance and enhancing the resilience of orphaned young people living in child- and youth-headed households in Tanzania and Uganda 

Evans, R. (2012). African Journal of AIDS Research (AJAR), 11, 177-189. doi: 10.2989/16085906.2012.734977    


This article explores the resilience of orphaned young people in safeguarding physical assets (land and property) inherited from their parents and sustaining their households without a co-resident adult relative. Drawing on the concept of resilience and the sustainable livelihoods framework, the article analyses the findings of an exploratory study conducted in 2008-2009 in Tanzania and Uganda with 15 orphaned young people heading households, 18 of their siblings, and 39 NGO workers and community members. The findings suggest that inherited land and property were key determining factors in the formation and viability of the child- and youth-headed households in both rural and urban areas.   
School children affected by HIV in rural South Africa: schools as environments that enable or limit coping

Khanare, F. (2012). African Journal of AIDS Research (AJAR), 11, 251-259. doi: 10.2989/16085906.2012.734985   


In contrast to the previous paper, Khanare's analysis highlights the role of schools in supporting children, not only through formal programmes such as Kids Clubs, but also through extended and intimate friendship circles formed and maintained in school. While the sampling and other methodological issues are not particularly clear or persuasive, the author develops a line of reasoning to demonstrate that children actively engage through school in friendships and activities through which they can share reciprocal support and assistance with other children. This makes school an important community and social resource for children besides being the site for their formal education.   


Coping with hardship through friendship: the importance of peer social capital among children affected by HIV in Kenya

Skovdal, M., & Ogutu, V. O. (2012).  African Journal of AIDS Research (AJAR), 11, 241-250. doi:10.2989/16085906.2012.734983


The authors begin with the observation that children affected by AIDS are frequently in danger of losing friends through household impacts of HIV, including dropping out of school and moving house and that these might be especially disruptive in adolescence when friendship networks have particular salience. Skovdal and Ogutu outline three types of social capital involved in children's peer relationships: close friends (bonding social capital), peers in the wider social community (bridging social capital) and schools and other organizations that facilitate peer support (linking social capital).   


  To read the full abstract, commentary on the research, and an analysis of its implications for policy and practice, click here.
The use of rites of passage in strengthening the psychosocial wellbeing of orphaned children in Botswana

Thamuku, M., & Daniel, M. (2012).  African Journal of AIDS Research (AJAR), 11, 215-224. doi: 10.2989/16085906.2012.734980


This overview of PEPFAR's approach to and achievements in PMTCT demonstrates the massive contribution of PEPFAR to expansion of the programme and to reductions in parent-to-child HIV transmission. As has been indicated before, efforts towards and achievement of the Global Plan goal of virtual elimination of paediatric HIV is the single most significant action to alleviate the impact of HIV and AIDS on children - especially as the four prongs of PMTCT also include protecting the health of their mothers as a critical aspect of child survival (Richter & Sherr, 2012). 


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

Van der Brug, M. (2012). African Journal of AIDS Research (AJAR), 11, 273-282. doi: 10.2989/16085906.2012.734989  

In the context of the extended and immediate family as a social resource for children affected by HIV and AIDS, this paper tracks residential, educational and socio-emotional adjustments in the lives of 14 children over a 7-year period. One of the major changes in the environment of these young people over this time period was the introduction of social welfare grants for orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia and these, the author demonstrates, had a major impact in facilitating auspicious changes in the circumstances and life satisfaction of this group of young people. This paper is methodologically stronger than some of the others in the special issue, with data extracted from several interviews with children and caregivers as well as focus groups, and a number of insights are provided.  


 To read the full abstract, commentary on the research, and an analysis of the implications for policy and practice, click here.  
'Read me to resilience': Exploring the use of cultural stories to boost the positive adjustment of children orphaned by AIDS

 Wood, L., Theron, L., & Mayaba, N. (2012). African Journal of AIDS Research (AJAR), 11, 225-239. doi: 10.2989/16085906.2012.734982


Despite a commitment to exploring the social roots of resilience, this paper rests on an individualistic mediational model of cognition - that is, it is how individuals think about their situation that generates resilience, not how other people facilitate or support the actions of young people to realise their resilience. For example, stories were told to the participants by a researcher, one story per week, "after which the researcher left, without discussing the story or interacting with the children in any other way. This process was strictly adhered to because we wanted to test the effects of the stories on the participants' resilience - and, should the reader bond warmly with the participants, this attachment would influence resilience, given that human relationships are known to encourage resilience" (p. 227).  


To read the full abstract, commentary on the research, and an analysis of the implications for policy and practice, click here.  


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Published Dec. 7, 2012 11:54 AM - Last modified Apr. 17, 2013 3:23 PM