Diplomats spend four years at a time abroad in South Africa's foreign missions, and after a home posting to Pretoria, typically lasting two years, they leave again. Children attend international schools. Thus diplomatic families have to adjust to a lifestyle of change and discontinuity, foreign cultures and unknown environments. The extent of this adjustment seems underrated and misunderstood. Since 1994 the number of missions abroad has doubled and most of the new missions are in the third world, hence the focus on hardship postings. In this narrative research, interviews were conducted with diplomatic families in several hardship posts. The aim was to gain a better understanding of the process of adjustment based on first hand information. Adjustment is described as a complex unfolding narrative with regressive as well as progressive story lines. The first stage lasting up to six months is seen as regressive, since the person is further removed from his goal of adjustment than at arrival. The rest of the stay is largely progressive if adjustment is seen as "being settled in a familiar routine" . Regressive elements refer to environmental restrictions. Findings include a description of an ideal couple for the foreign service; a need for effective preparation for a posting is confirmed; a changed relationship between Head Office and an official when abroad; diffuse identity among adolescents who spend formative years abroad, resulting in poorly understood adjustment problems on reentry; importance of attending to the soft issues of relocation instead of focusing on financial compensation.
Thesis (PhD (Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.