n Africa Insight - Coping strategies and resilience in youth-headed households – the case of the Nelson Mandela Metro

Volume 44 Number 4
  • ISSN : 0256-2804


This article seeks to examine the coping strategies and resilience factors in youth-headed families. The article is based on the narrative life stories of six youth-headed families in Port Elizabeth who were able to remain together as a family following the death of their parents. Data collection was conducted utilising multiple methods, including one-on-one individual interviews with young people heading their households, family focus group interviews with most of the members of the six selected youth-headed families, and essay writing.

The findings illustrate that various coping strategies were being used by the heads of the households and by each family as a whole. The strategies used by the heads of the households included: acceptance of the situation/a sense of resignation; suppression of emotions and negative experiences; exercising control and agency over one's life through creating heroic and positive identities and stories as a way of coping with trauma and adversity; attaching to others and mobilising social support; and being proactive and creative in dealing with challenging and sensitive issues. At a family and household level, the following coping strategies were identified: remaining a family in the midst of challenges; learning to let go of what could have been; and staying connected to family history, values and principles.
Other factors and processes that were identified as playing a role in strengthening the resilience of members of youth-headed households at both an individual and a family level included: the availability of circles of care and social networks for the individual and the family as a whole within the community; strong family and social relationships within the family; religious and cultural affiliations and practices; availability of communication and problem-solving skills at individual and family levels; and an ability to create hope.

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