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Dumela Mma: an examination of resilience among South African grandmothers raising grandchildren

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 September 2015

Human Development, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA.
College of Social Work, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA.
Human Development, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA.
Human Development, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA.
Social Work, North-West University - Mafikeng Campus, Mmabatho, South Africa.
School of Teacher Education and Training, North-West University, Mmabatho, South Africa.
Address for correspondence: Megan Dolbin-MacNab, Virginia Tech – Human Development, Family Therapy Center of Virginia Tech (0515), 840 University City Blvd, Suite 1, Blacksburg, VA 24060, USA E-mail:


Grandmothers serve as primary care-givers for a significant number of South African children. Previous research has documented that South African grandmothers experience physical, financial, emotional and social adversity. However, less attention has been given to South African grandmothers' resilience, or their capacity to respond to the challenges associated with raising their grandchildren. Utilising Walsh's (2003; 2012) family resilience model, this qualitative study examined resilience and resilient processes among 75 Black South African grandmothers raising grandchildren. Grandmothers participated in structured interviews during a weekly visit to a local luncheon (social) club. Results indicated that the grandmothers perceived themselves as engaging in a number of resilient processes, including relying on their spirituality, accessing sources of instrumental support, and seeking emotional support and companionship from their grandchildren and larger communities. Grandmothers also believed that focusing on their grandchildren contributed to their sense of resilience. This involved maintaining a sense of responsibility to their grandchildren, having hope for their grandchildren's futures and finding enjoyment in the grandmother–grandchild relationship. The findings reveal that, by engaging in various resilient processes, South African grandmothers raising grandchildren perceive themselves and their families as having strategies they can utilise in order to successfully cope with adversity. Findings also highlight the need for prevention and intervention efforts designed to promote grandmothers' resilience, as well as the resilience of their grandchildren.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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