Graduate School
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Dr Joana Salifu Yendork

Home country: Ghana

Year of enrolment: 2012

Graduation date: December 2014

Department:  Psychology

Supervisor: Dr Nceba Somhlaba

Dissertation title: The psychological functioning and experiences following placement in orphanages: An exploratory study of orphanhood in Accra, Ghana

Abstract: Parental loss and orphanage placement can be stressful and can negatively influence the well-being of children. However, few studies have been conducted on the psychological well-being of Ghanaian orphans placed in orphanages. As a result, the impact of orphanage placement following parental loss in Ghana is not well understood. The present study aimed to explore the psychological functioning and experiences of orphaned children placed in orphanages in comparison to non-orphaned children in Accra, Ghana. A mixed-method design with elements of both quantitative and qualitative approaches was used. For quantitative data, questionnaires were used to source information pertaining to quality of life, stress (symptoms of depression and anxiety), problems experienced during the month, coping strategies, perceived social support, perceived self-efficacy and resilience. For qualitative data, follow-up interviews with selected orphaned participants were used to delve into participants' experiences of placement in an orphanage. Purposive sampling was used to select participants who were aged between seven and 17 years. The sample comprised 100 orphaned children, placed in four orphanages, and 100 non-orphans sampled from two public schools in Accra. The quantitative data were analysed using the t-test, the chi-square test, Pearson product-moment correlation analyses, one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and regression analyses. The qualitative data were analysed through content and thematic analyses. The results revealed that orphaned children showed more anxiety symptoms than non-orphans but both groups of children presented with high levels of depressive symptoms. The predominant problems for both groups of children were problems with school and relationship problems with peers and caregivers. However, for orphaned children, relationship problems with peers were commonly cited whereas for non-orphans, problems cited were relationship difficulties with caregivers. Despite the heightened emotional distress, orphaned children reported high levels of self-efficacy and resilience as well as stronger perceptions of available support from friends than non-orphans. Non-orphaned children perceived significantly stronger support from families than orphaned children. Regression analyses also revealed that for orphaned children, anxiety and support-seeking coping emerged as significant predictors of qualify of life whereas depression emerged as a significant predictor of quality of life for non-orphaned children. Self-efficacy emerged as a significant positive predictor of resilience for orphaned children whereas self-efficacy and perceived social support emerged as significant positive predictors of resilience for non-orphans. The results of the thematic analyses of the follow-up interviews with selected orphans also revealed that orphanage placement evoked both negative and positive experiences. While orphanages provided structure, nurturance, a safe home environment and avenues for positive peer relationships that engendered a sense of belonging, they were also associated with financial constraints and relationship problems with peers and caregivers. In addition, the Christian-religious orientation of the orphaned children appeared to foster orphans' well-being. The present study provided evidence that both the orphaned and non-orphaned children were vulnerable to psychological distress. Therefore, interventions should be effected to both groups of children. Furthermore, the study showed that orphanages provided sanctuary and nurturance to orphans who lack parental care and could be considered as a viable form of orphan care in Ghana.

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