The focus of this study was to evaluate an emotional awareness programme for children in middle childhood in a school setting developed by Dr JS Knoetze. This research measured the effectiveness of the emotional awareness programme (EA Programme) in a different context, a child and youth care centre. The goal of the EA Programme is to cultivate children?s emotional awareness. The Gestalt theoretical approach rendered itself pragmatic to this study as various key concepts of this theory was integrated into the academic underpinnings.
Emotional awareness benefits children in the sense that they are more equipped to handle stressful events. Children with emotional awareness demonstrate introspective skills and have a better understanding of emotions in their social contexts. They are better able to apply functional emotional regulation strategies which in turn nurture personal goal attainment and positive relationships with others.
The advances in terms or their cognitive skills of children in middle childhood allow a better understanding of emotions and create an ideal platform for socio-emotional learning. Children in this phase of development have mastered the skills of reading, writing and reasoning, which are necessary to understand and participate in the EA Programme.
Emotional awareness is specifically important for children who reside in a child and youth care centre. These children were exposed to some degree of trauma and experience the placement in alternative care in itself as disruptive. The literature describes the challenges children in a child and youth care centre face, which supports the assumption that interventions are needed to assist these children to develop effective emotional regulation strategies. The EA Programme is regarded as such an intervention. This investigation was executed from a quantitative research approach as the relationship between two variables was measured. The data was collected by using a standardised measuring instrument, the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale for Children (LEAS-C). The researched is catagorised as applied research as it focused an issue in practice, namely emotional awareness of children in alternative care.
The quasi-experimental design that was followed was the comparison group pre-test, post-test design. This entailed that both groups completed the pre-test after which the experimental group was exposed to the EA Programme, then both groups completed the post-test. The availability sampling method was applied to select the respondents who were children in middle childhood residing in a child and youth care centre in the North-West Province.
The LEAS-C is a standardised questionnaire that was developed by Dr. Jane Bajgar and Dr. Richard Lane (2003). The questionnaire is suitable to be completed by children as the questions are formulated in understandable language.
The main conclusions drawn from this study are:
? Emotional awareness forms a central building block of the development of emotional intelligence, emotional competence and emotional regulation. Emotional awareness is regarded as a cognitive ability that can be learnt in order to develop other emotional abilities.
? Children placed in a child and youth care centre are specifically at risk to develop impaired emotional functioning as a result of trauma, maltreatment and the care-giving environment. Their disorganised emotional experiences translate into complex behavioural issues. Children placed in a child and youth care centre could specifically benefit from a programme, such as the EA Programme, that focus on nurturing skills that enhance emotional awareness.
? The research findings suggest that the EA Programme increased the experimental group?s ability to be in contact with own emotions, their emotional vocabulary and emotional expression skills as well as their levels of emotional awareness. The EA Programme can be delivered as an effective intervention within the context of a child and youth care centre.
? The findings and conclusions derived from this study made a meaningful contribution to the field of social work as it focused on evaluating an intervention. This research specifically contributed to social work service delivery to looked after children in institutional settings.
Mini Dissertation (MSW)--University of Pretoria, 2015.