This study investigates the moral development of adolescents orphaned by AIDS in child-headed households. In South Africa HIV/ AIDS is a major cause of the increasing number of orphans, child-headed households and the disintegration of families and extended families. This has led to the increasing moral, social and educational vulnerability of orphaned children and children in child-headed households. The study was conducted according to qualitative research approach, guided by the interpretivist epistemology, with the primary source of information being the experiences of adolescents living in child-headed households. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory and Kohlberg’s theory of Moral Development were used to gather data and to guide the study. A case study research design was utilized with semi-structured interviews as the main data collection strategy, supplemented with observations and narratives. Six participants were purposively selected for this study.
The findings of this study reveal that adolescents in child-headed households experience abject poverty with no parents due to death caused by AIDS. These adolescents have to fend for themselves and make own decisions without the guidance of an adult or parents. The research has revealed that the moral reasoning of adolescents in child-headed households are mainly influenced by poverty, lack of support, the need to survive and the interaction with peers and the community. The emergent developmental levels from the literature and empirical data proofed that the support or lack thereof that the participants experienced has a significant influence on their moral development. Their circumstances forced them in some instances to act wrongly, irresponsible and irrational.
Based on the findings and conclusions of this study, specific recommendations were drawn that could be useful to Education Department, Health and Social Development Department, Home Affairs Department and other government departments, schools, non-government organizations and researchers. Based on the findings the study provides measures to be taken to promote responsible moral behaviour and development of adolescents in child-headed households.