Voicing perceptions of risk and protective factors in coping in a HIV&AIDS landscape : reflecting on capacity for adaptiveness

26 Jul 2007

The purpose of this article is to locate children’s own voices within the discourse of ‘disadvantaged children’. I commence by proposing that foregrounding vulnerable children’s knowledge of protective factors may enable resiliency in similar scenarios. After that, from a positive psychology framework, I explicate the conceptual framework integrating constructs from resilience theory, featuring protective in a systemic model. Next I describe the action research design of a partnership study1 in 78 schools in an impoverished rural province – focusing on the computer-based random sampling of 10 percent of the participants (n=2391), the development, piloting and translation of a mixed method questionnaire and the framework analysis of collected data. Then I introduce the emerged themes in terms of protective factors, locating most protection in the (disadvantaged) community, with the child as the central system negotiating adaptation. Subsequently I interpret the themes from my conceptual framework. I submit that the presence of cumulative protection will most probably enhance personal capacity. I also surmise that health-promoting schools may function as replacement safe spaces when safe family systems are lacking, whereas at-risk schools may aggravate the experience and consequences of unsafe family systems. I suggest that perceived capacity in the community system be built on to further support vulnerable children to be resilient. I conclude by suggesting some strategies for future research and intervention endeavours.