*Electronic Theses and Dissertations (Masters)

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    Exploring the pandemic: COVID-19 lockdown response levels as predictor of working memory performance and associated emotional responses
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022-03-10) Oyejide, Aderemi Oyewunmi; Besharati, Sabba; Brooks, Samantha
    The unprecedented outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the course of many lives, resulting in multiple health and social challenges. Due to the speed with which this pandemic spread, various public health ‘lockdown’ measures were introduced to mitigate its spread. The outcome of adherence to these measures has revealed the possible influence on individuals varying cognitive abilities. Therefore, this study aimed at exploring the predicting relationship between lockdown responses to COVID-19 restrictions and working memory performance and associated emotional responses, while looking at the socio-demographic influences of age, gender, and level of education. Participants were drawn from a secondary dataset of an international online survey study of 1634 individuals between 18 – 75 years across 49 countries. Participants’ demographic questionnaires, working memory measures (free memory recall and digit span forward tasks), and hospital anxiety and depression scale were employed to collect data for analysis. A 4-way MANOVA and hierarchical multiple regression were utilised to explore the mean differences and predicting relationships between the study variables respectively. Significant differences were found in general memory performance, anxiety and depression scores across lockdown groups, but with no significant difference in working memory. The regression analysis indicated socio-demographic variables as non-predictive markers between lockdown responses and memory performance, while age and gender were significant predictors between lockdown responses and anxiety. The current study provides valuable information for interventions that may improve peoples’ psychological appraisals in preparation for any new potential waves or future pandemics.
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    Rendering services to people with substance use disorders: perceptions of Social Workers in Ehlanzeni District, Mpumalanga Province
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2020) Singwane, Thembinkosi Peter
    Substance use disorders are a global challenge with detrimental effects on health, wealth and security of nations. Historically social workers have been and continue to be among the primary service providers to individuals who experience Substance Use Disorders (hereafter referred as SUDs). Although substance use disorders are a prevailing treatment issue, addiction remains under-identified as a primary practice area for clinical social workers. Since social workers play a crucial role in the identification and treatment of people with substance use disorders, their perceptions of these patients have consequences on the nature and quality of services delivered to them. The researcher’s interest in the study was informed by the ever-escalating increase of people with SUDs in South Africa. Over the past five years, according to statistics as reported by the South Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use, the Ehlanzeni District Municipality in Mpumalanga Province has seen an extensive spread of SUDs. For this reason, this study adopted the qualitative approach by employing the multiple case study design to execute this research. The purpose of the study was exploratory and descriptive in nature. The population consisted of social workers who specialize (or work) on substance/ addiction management from two Non-Governmental Organizations (hereafter referred as NGOs) namely; South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) Lowveld and National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of offenders (NICRO). The study also included social workers (practicing in the substance/ addiction management) from the Department of Social Development (hereafter referred as DSD) who work with SUDs, 4 (four) social workers in the focus group from DSD. Since Social workers from SANCA (6) and NICRO (7) were numerical minority, they were included in two separate focus group respectively. The study made use of focus group discussions for both NGOs and the DSD after participants (Only from Ehlanzeni district) have been identified through the purposive sampling technique. The researcher used thematic analysis for analyzing data.
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    Anxiety as a Mediator of the Associations Between Stressful Life Events and Social Media Use Intensity in Young Adults
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022-05) Ramoroka, Morongwa Rebaabetswe Elina; Price, Esther
    Introduction: This study quantitatively explored the associations between SLEs, anxiety, and social media use intensity. The study explores whether anxiety mediates the relationship between SLEs and social media use intensity across all four domains. This study further aims to explore whether social media use intensity, operationalized as an avoidance coping strategy, is possibly due to poor emotional regulation and distress tolerance skills. The first-time undergraduate student population are often inadequately prepared for the transition to university during a critical period of their development. As a result, they may drift towards health compromising behaviours such as intense social media use. The findings will set a precedent for the development of preventative programs and/or interventions in order to assist young adults with emotional regulation. Methods: This was a cross-sectional design that was analysed quantitatively. The participants were invited to participate in online questionnaires which assessed stressful life events, anxiety, and social media use intensity. While a total sample of 402 students completed parts of the online survey questionnaires, a final sample of 360 participants was used in the study as their data sets were complete for all the variables. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale, Beck's Anxiety Inventory, and the Facebook Intensity Scale were the measures used. Results: Positive associations were found between SLEs, anxiety and social media use intensity. Anxiety mediated the relationship between SLEs and social media use intensity across all four domains. This reflected that social media use intensity is a form of avoidance coping mechanism that emerges due to poor emotional regulation and distress tolerance skills. Conclusions: The present study highlights the challenges experienced and how to set a precedent for the development of preventative programs and interventions. Keywords: stressful life events, anxiety, avoidance coping, social media use intensity
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    Social Constructions of Criminal Victimisation and Traumatic Stress Responses in Relation to Male Victims and Gender
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2017) Gqweta, Ntokozo
    Literature findings suggest that there are differences in male and female trauma exposure patterns (Norris & Slone, 2013). With this background in mind the aim of the study was to analyse the kinds of discursive patterns and themes that are prominent in conversing about male and female victims of crime related trauma and about their responses to being traumatised in this way. This aim was achieved through exploring the contributions of gender related attributions to constructions of victims of crime by university students in response to scenarios presented to them. The element of particular interest in this study was the gendering of victimisation and trauma related responses, focusing especially on male victims. The participants were first year psychology students and data was collected using focus groups in which participants were asked to comment on a vignette describing a fellow student’s victimisation by mugging and their subsequent trauma related responses. Four focus groups were conducted in two of which the victim was portrayed as female and in two of which as male. The discussions from the four groups were transcribed and subject to a thematic analysis and discursive reading of the material focusing particularly on gender related material. Seven core themes emerged which were referred to as: 1) Victim blame, 2) Legitimacy of trauma reactions; 3) Desensitisation, minimising of the nature of the event and related assessment of the responses 4) Victimisation as an identity position, 5) Evaluation of the role of social support and help-seeking, 6) Gender related constructions of victimisation and traumatisation, and 7) Evidence for contestation of gender stereotypes. The participants tended to construct both the male and female victim’s traumatic experience as resulting from irresponsibility, naivety and ignorance. Furthermore, the victim’s traumatic reactions were typed as either normal or abnormal, with intense and more enduring traumatic reactions being considered abnormal and dispositional. The perception of violence and crime as ubiquitous and uncontrollable within the South African context contributed to an underplaying of the significance of the victim’s experiences. There was some indication that perceptions of the victim’s identification with the victim role contributed to an emphasis on the need for self-reliance, control and circumscribed help-seeking in relation to peers. Although there was a degree of difference in response to the gender of the hypothetical victim these differences were less marked than might have been anticipated. While rather critical evaluations of trauma responses were made in respect of both male and female victims, male victims received more censorial responses in general. It was evident that male victims of crime were viewed and constructed somewhat differently from their female counterparts and that reference to patriarchy, gender socialisation, and stereotypic masculinity appeared to play a critical role in the construction of male victims. These findings have implications for the provision of support, care, sympathy and understanding of crime and violence victims generally, and male victims in particular. .
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    Experiences of loveLife Trust telephone counsellors about the EWP employed within Gauteng
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022) Mpekana, Rebecca
    Globally, most Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) do not prioritise employee wellness programmes (EWPs). NPOs’ funding is often allocated for rendering their primary programmes rather than improving their employees’ wellness. Employees in NPOs are left to devise their own means to best cope with work-related stress and challenges. Some employees rely on support from community-based organisations or their colleagues. loveLife Trust is a South African NPO that operates nation-wide. loveLife Trust recently introduced EWP to be utilised by its employees who are telephone counsellors. As of year 2022, loveLife Trust employs about 12 telephone counsellors. The loveLife Trust counsellors render psychological support to youth country-wide. Dealing with the youth’s presenting problems exposes the telephone counsellors to burnout and anxiety. This study aimed to explore how telephone counsellors experience the loveLife Trust EWP service. This was a qualitative study that allowed the participants to openly share their views. The total participants for this study were 12 telephone counsellors who were working on the toll-free line which is based in Gauteng. In addition, two key informants; the team supervisor and an EWP account manager, were interviewed. All participants were interviewed through ZOOM Cloud Meetings. A qualitative interview schedule that was guided by open-ended one-on-one interview questions was used for data collection. Thematic data analysis was used to derive different themes for the study. The aim of the study was to explore the experiences of telephone counsellors on EWP at loveLife Trust. The telephone counsellors are based in the call centre in Gauteng. The study revealed that telephone counsellors have not utilised the EWP as a way of support. The telephone counsellors prefer collegial support for taking care of their wellness. To spark interest amongst telephone counsellors to utilise the service, loveLife management should prioritise EWP awareness.
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    The navigation of sexual identity between novice therapists and their queer clients: therapists’ perspectives
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2021) Kgosamang, Rebaone; Prof Carol Long
    Queer research related to psychotherapy is relatively scarce. The necessary emphasis of queer research on the HIV epidemic, social inclusion and exclusion and political and legislative issues surrounding the queer community has resulted in a relative neglect of mental health issues. Given the historical context of homophobia in psychology and psychiatry, therapists’ experiences of working with queer clients are important to investigate. The current study aimed to explore how novice therapists navigate sexual identity with their queer clients in therapy. A qualitative study was conducted in which six (6) participants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule. The study’s sample comprised of an intern Clinical Psychologist, a newly qualified Educational Psychologist and four newly qualified Clinical Psychologists who are all in private practice. Demographically, there were two white men both of whom are cisgendered and identify as queer and four black women of whom are all cisgendered with one identifying as queer and the rest as heterosexual. A thematic analysis was conducted on the results that emerged from the interviews with the participants. The following three major themes emerged: Disclosing sexual identity, Taking care to avoid pathologising queer clients and therapy shaped by therapists’ own sexual identity. The results indicated the complexity involved in navigating sexual identity in psychotherapy. Therapists experienced a process of initial unexpected openness, followed by an awareness of guardedness as well as a growing awareness of their clients’ expectations of prejudice in their encounter with sexual identity in therapy. This appeared to be influenced by clients’ internalised homophobia. Additionally, therapists’ own sexual identity influenced how they broached sexual identity in the room, with heterosexual therapists noting a fear around misunderstand and queer therapists acknowledging a struggle with overidentification. The results implicitly revealed a gap within training programmes. Implications for practising therapists are discussed.
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    Men’s responses to the #menaretrash movement on Reddit: a social constructionist and psychoanalytic analysis
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022) Stroucken, Paige Alexandra
    Gender-based violence (GBV) has been declared a global pandemic by the United Nations and has been linked to traditional gender roles and societal pressure to achieve certain masculinities. The necessity of including men in conversations around gender and GBV interventions has been highlighted, however, there is limited research on men’s responses to GBV or to protests against GBV. This study aimed to contribute to the inclusion of men in GBV conversations by focusing on men’s responses to a particular online protest movement, #MenAreTrash (#MAT). This movement began in South Africa in 2016/17 in response to violence against women and was adopted by women across the world as a means to express anger toward broader gender discrimination, violence and gender power imbalances. This study examined men’s responses to the #MAT movement on Reddit (a free online social media platform). In particular, these men’s constructions of masculinity, women, and the #MAT movement were examined. Subreddits threads and posts (including comments) using the hashtag from January 2019 to January 2021 were analysed. An interpretive thematic analysis that utilized psychodynamic and social constructionist frameworks was conducted, which allowed for both intrapsychic and social aspects of responses to be explored. This study found that the predominant emotion displayed by men in the threads was anger, in response to feeling threatened. However, underlying this anger was anxiety. Anxiety was understood as an underlying response to feeling the need to defend their masculinity. Masculinity was constructed in two ways: as either unfairly under attack or needing to change. Some men felt that the good parts of masculinity were being ignored. Other men viewed masculinity as capable of being more responsive and adaptive to female causes. However, within these two constructions the complex nature of masculinity emerged, within which there were shifting positions of agency and victimhood. Men in the study constructed all women who support the #MAT movement as feminists, however, splits in this construction were also evident: women were either ‘reasonable feminists’ who demonstrate less combative support of the movement, or ‘radical feminists’, who aim to annihilate and alienate men. Overall, #MAT was constructed as damaging and stereotyping. However, a small number of men viewed the movement as helpful and necessary in generating awareness of GBV.
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    The role of the Community Work Programme (CWP) in poverty alleviation: a case of Naledi Local Municipality in Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District, North West Province
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022) Mongale, Ontiretse
    South Africa is of a typical example of countries which adopted development welfare services. Social development approach has been practiced since 1994 in South Africa. Evidently development policies, projects and programmes illustrate such. The Community Work Programme (CWP) was adopted in 2009 to contribute towards poverty alleviation in South Africa. CWP is a Public Employment Programme (PEP) led by government which provide regular employment and social protection to people vulnerable to poverty. Therefore, this study aimed to explore contributions of CWP in poverty alleviation in Naledi Local Municipality (NLM) in Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District, North West Province. The research approach was qualitative in nature, and an instrumental case study design was applied. This research is rooted in interpretivism paradigm hence purposive sampling technique was used to select participants who could provide in-depth examination of the topic. The sample consisted of twenty research participants. These include thirteen CWP participants, four field supervisors and three participants from the office staff and implementing agent. Three different semi-structured interview guides were used to collect data. Data was collected through in-depth face to face interviews to collect data from CWP participants and field supervisor while visual platform called Zoom was used to collect data from office staff members. Covid19 protocols were adhered to during face to face interviews with respondents. Thematic analysis was used to analyse data. The main conclusion derived from the study is that the CWP provides sufficient benefits to its participants and community of NLM that accelerate government efforts to alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment. The study also established that the CWP has the potential to improve provision of basic social needs and skills required to enter in the job market only if multiple stakeholder partnerships and collaborations are enhanced. The study concludes with an optimistic view that social protection directly reduces the effect of unemployment across South Africa.
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    Experiences of probation officers working at Department of Social Development, Gauteng, JHB Metro Region on occupational stress and their coping mechanisms
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022) Monnye, Olebogeng
    The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) states that the majority of children in conflict with the law have committed petty crimes such as alcohol abuse, begging, absenteeism from school and vagrancy. Probation officers have an important role to play in the lives of people in conflict with the law. Some of their responsibilities include conducting thorough investigations to assess the offenders who have committed crimes. It can be understood that the nature of their job can at times cause occupational stress. The aim of the study was to explore the occupational stressors and coping mechanisms adopted by probation officers working at the Department of Social Development (DSD), Johannesburg (Jhb) Metro Region in the Gauteng province of South Africa. A qualitative approach was used to conduct the study. Fifteen participants were selected using non-probability purposive sampling. Face to face in-depth interviews were conducted to collect the data. The interviews were audio recorded and the data was analysed using thematic analysis. It was anticipated that insights into the occupational stressors and coping strategies adopted by probation officers would be revealed. This study revealed that probation officers have high caseloads, but have good coping mechanisms to curb occupational stress in that they confide in their supervisors and their colleagues. The significance of the study for social work was that it may help probation officers to determine how they can better deal with occupational stress. Little research has been conducted in South Africa regarding probation officers’ occupational stressors. Therefore, this study contributed to literature on the matter.
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    Balancing the roles of Employee Aad Primary Child Caregiver: Experiences of Single Mothers formally Employed in Otjiwarongo, Namibia
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2020) Markus, Julia Ndeyapewa
    The number of single mothers entering the workforce is an ever-increasing trend throughout the world, including countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Namibia. Usually, single mothers face many challenges fulfilling the roles of employee and primary caregiver simultaneously. Although the challenges experienced by employed, single mothers have been well researched in developed Western and European countries, there is a gap of knowledge regarding how formally employed, single mothers in sub-Saharan Africa, including Namibia, experience trying to balance the responsibilities of employee and primary caregiver of their children. Occupational social workers can play a meaningful role in supporting employees in the workplace, including employed, single mothers who are facing caregiving challenges that are negatively impacting on their work responsibilities. The main aim of this research was thus to explore how employed single mothers in Namibia experience trying to balance the roles of primary caregiver and employee, so that key role players within the workplace, especially occupational social workers, can gain more insight into how these challenges can best be addressed. To realise this aim, a qualitative research approach was adopted using the phenomenological research design. Fifteen employed mothers in Otjiwarongo, a small town of about 28 000 inhabitants in the Otjozondjupa region, were purposively selected as the research sample. Data were gathered by conducting individual interviews with the participants. The research tool was pre-tested with an employed single mother who met the sample selection criteria. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse data. The main findings based on data analysis were that fulfilling the role of mother is difficult when facing work pressure and working long hours. Stress experienced in the work environment is often carried over to the home environment, and vice versa. Focus on work activities can also be undermined when experiencing concerns about the well-being of their children, especially if they are young. Women try to balance their simultaneous roles by employing reliable caregivers to take on the responsibility of caregiving when they are at work. Based on research findings, it is recommended that occupational social workers work towards implementing policy and practice within the work environment that facilitates personal contact between mother and child.