Year: 2005
Working paper number: 119
Author: Shelmerdine, Sarah
Unit: SSU

A substantial body of research links the developmental outcomes of young people to the relationships they have with adults. However, very little research provides insight into the mechanisms whereby relationships achieve their outcomes or the specific qualities of those relationships. This paper explores the construction of relationships between young people and adults in three different socio-cultural settings in Cape Town. Four young people in each setting, namely Ocean View, Fish Hoek and Masiphumelele were interviewed about their relationships with the most important adults in their lives. Where possible, the adults they identified were interviewed also. Interviews were unstructured and analysed thematically.  Fundamentally, constructions of the relationships in all three settings were found to be similar. All adults encouraged young people to succeed and sought to protect them against risk. However, the nature of the opportunities and risks, and of the material context in general, differ between the three different study sites and have considerable import for the narratives of the relationships from each. The paper argues that the differences between the three sites indicate the responsiveness and adaptation of ideals and discourses to environmental demands, rather than fundamental ideological discrepancies.

Publication file: wp119.pdf