oa Journal of Psychology in Africa - Sociocultural aspects of infertility in a black South African community



An exploratory study was conducted to investigate (a) the views of infertility held by the black community in South African, (b) the impact of these views on community relations with infertile people and, (c) the ability of the community to act as social support for infertile people were investigated. The study also investigated the perceptions of available treatment options for infertility, and the implications of these perceptions to the mental health service provision for people who are infertile. A convenience sampling method and sampling to redundancy method were used to obtain seventy- six (76) members of the African community in South Africa. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data. Open ended and few close-ended questions were used to elicit meanings and to explore attitudes towards infertility. The data was organised into categories on the basis of themes elicited from the responses and domain analysis was conducted. Frequencies and percentages of theme responses were also used to analyse the data. The findings indicate that the community tends to pressurise women to reproduce. Women were held responsible for the couple's reproductive failure. On the other hand, infertility in men is considered unacceptable such that it is kept a secret. The study also found that the inability to interact with infertile people or to give them social support is modulated by the community's perceptions of the causes of infertility. For instance, social support is withdrawn in cases which infertility is attributed to adultery or a consequence of abortion; the community's attitude is that the infertile are responsible for their reproductive failure. Thus, the findings indicate socio-cultural gender differences in infertility related stigma. Traditional African and Western intervention methods were reported. Implications of the research findings to psychological intervention strategies for infertility are discussed.


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