Changing Family Roles Of (South) African Grandparents
Tanschus, Nele Marie
Institute of Gerontology Hoschschule Vechta Vechta, Gemany
This paper discusses the change of family roles in South African families based on a study of the available research literature. Images of the family and their functions have been altered by various simultaneously changing processes during the past centuries. Recently, the AIDS issue and its effects on the African family have drawn greater attention towards the family roles of the elderly.
In large parts of Africa the AIDS epidemic affects not only family members of the middle generation as the majority of HIV carriers but also the elderly. Infected members of the middle generation are often unable to provide support and care neither for their children nor for the elderly. In many cases, the elderly have to take over the parenting role and care for their grandchildren. That means informal care changes its direction from originally being given from the children or grandchildren towards the grandparents into care provided by the grandparents in order to help their younger relatives. But what happens if they need help themselves? In most countries in Southern Africa, the welfare system is not able to provide a decent support for all affected familial generations. Therefore, informal networks and intergenerational relationships become more important but also more burdened. For grandparents in Africa, the care for the younger might implicate various negative side effects which could cause aging to become an even more stressful experience reducing the quality of their later life.
Finally, this paper will discuss current social policy implications of help for grandparents caring for orphaned grandchildren and it will attempt to outline further research questions and programmes.
A cross-national perspective will be approached by trying to link the results from the literature work with experiences gained from a recent stay in Tanzania.