The study explored resilience processes employed by adolescent secondary school learners living in child-headed households (CHHs) in Chinhoyi. The study was premised on the observation that research on resilience processes used in CHHs in Zimbabwe is rather scarce. Adolescents living in CHHs face a myriad of challenges which include stigmatisation, homelessness, emotional turmoil, curtailed education, and loss of life opportunities, to name a few. Such challenges have the potential to make them vulnerable to undesirable psychological and educational outcomes. Despite these challenges, many of these adolescents continue with their schooling even under difficult situations of deprivation. The assumption is that they use certain survival mechanisms which enable them to forge ahead and thrive. Since an understanding of these survival mechanisms is critical to the crafting of home-grown policies and intervention strategies to support CHH adolescents_ well-being and development, I was motivated to determine which environmental factors could be harnessed and nurtured to this purpose.
My study is guided by the interpretivist philosophy informing the construction and interpretation of meaning, hence I adopted a qualitative phenomenological data collection methodology consisting of interviews (n=14) and focus group discussion (n=6). I used the interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) method, to analyse participant transcripts. The study is, moreover, grounded in the Family Resilience Framework which holds that all families, regardless of type, have the capacity to recover from the effect of adversity and live well (Walsh, 2016, 2012).
Inductive thematic data analysis uncovered three major themes, viz.: risk factors associated with life of adolescents in CHHs; resilience-enhancing resources and adolescent agency in CHHs, and CHHs as reservoirs of knowledge. The main finding of the study is that, although secondary school adolescent learners in CHHs experience more adversities (multiple risk factors) than their counterparts, most of which emanate from poverty and the absence of adult supervision, all my research participants, in spite of limited resources and support, focused on simultaneously completing their education and managing their lives responsibly.