Waithood, Developmental Pathways, Coping and Resilience among South African Youths who Head Families





coping, developmental pathways, developmental theory, resilience, waithood


This article draws from the narratives of the lives of three South African youths who head families. It is based on a longitudinal study conducted from 2012 to 2016 in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa. It explores the developmental pathways of youths heading their families following the deaths of their parents and how these youths cope with challenges associated with the transition to adulthood. The article engages with the concept of waithood as a period of suspension between childhood and adulthood and expands into existing western-dominant theories of human development from a social constructionist perspective. Data obtained from the narratives of these participants from the global South challenge the dominant westernised understanding of individualised youth transition to adulthood, from various human development theories. The article argues that young people who head their families (after the death of their parents) forge alternative pathways to adulthood, which expands into the conventional Eriksonian-staged approach to youth development. The alternative pathways these youths forge tend to be relational rather than individualised and are embedded in social relations with siblings, the extended family and networks of supporters and mentors. The findings also reveal that young people who head their families use their agency and creativity to fashion new ways of coping and resilience as they navigate their own unique pathways to adulthood.


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Author Biography

Zoleka Soji, Nelson Mandela University

Senior Lecturer at Social Development Professions




How to Cite

Soji, Zoleka. 2018. “Waithood, Developmental Pathways, Coping and Resilience Among South African Youths Who Head Families”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 30 (3):18 pages. https://doi.org/10.25159/2415-5829/4044.



Received 2018-03-12
Accepted 2018-07-14
Published 2018-10-25