n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - The experiences of primary caregivers whose children/grandchildren were exposed to paternal incest

Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



Paternal incest is traumatic for the child-victim and has the potential to be harmful to the rest of the family members, particularly the primary caregivers (mothers and grandmothers), who therefore need to be supported. The aim of this study was firstly to explore the experiences of primary caregivers whose children or grandchildren were exposed to paternal incest and secondly to use these experiences to suggest guidelines for practitioners on how to support these caregivers. A qualitative, phenomenological design was used in the study. In-depth interviews were conducted with six primary caregivers (four mothers and two maternal grandmothers) from the coloured population group, aged between 25 and 60, from the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Data was analysed thematically. Two main themes emerged from the study. The first theme entailed reactions to the disclosure and its aftermath, which encompassed emotional, cognitive and physiological reactions that were similar to secondary traumatisation. The second theme was coping strategies that emerged to deal with the disclosure and its aftermath, which encompassed effective coping strategies (behavioural coping strategies to actively solve problems and the presence of social support), unhealthy or negative coping strategies (behavioural coping strategies of avoidance) and threats to coping (a lack of social support). Guidelines are suggested for emotional support, multidisciplinary practitioner support and educational support programmes.

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