Understanding the impact of family structure on street children

A recent study conducted by Dr Karabo Mohapanele, a PhD graduate in sociology from the North-West University (NWU), sheds light on the crucial role of families in influencing children's behaviour and shaping their lives, and on how family dynamics and structure play a significant role in the emergence of street children in North West.

Sadly, street children form a visible part of societies worldwide, and South Africa is no exception. These vulnerable children, often without proper care and protection, roam the streets, exposed to a myriad of dangers and risks. Dr Mohapanele 's study aims to uncover the underlying factors that contribute to the rise in the number of street children, with a focus on the role of family dynamics.

While poverty is often cited as a major factor contributing to the street children phenomenon, her research challenges this assumption. Her study reveals that dysfunctional family structures are equally significant contributors. By analysing the family backgrounds of street children, the research identifies four main family structures: single-parent families, nuclear families, stepfamilies and extended families.

The role of parenting styles

Among the crucial findings the study highlights the role of parenting styles adopted by parents.

Factors like the parent-child relationship, child discipline, treatment and guidance significantly influence a child's decision to leave home and seek refuge on the streets.

“The research reveals that parents' employment status, gender and age also play a pivotal role in shaping a child's socialisation and upbringing.

“The study's implications extend beyond merely identifying the problems. Reunification programmes for street children and their families should include family therapy, micro-finance or socio-economic support to parents and other resources to prevent children from migrating back to the streets,” says Dr Mohapanele.

The study also calls for the formulation of family and children’s policies in South Africa that empower parents and encourage strong familial bonds.

“Creating nurturing family environments through effective parenting styles can significantly improve child outcomes and overall development,” she says.

In a society grappling with the heart-breaking issue of street children, this research shines a light on the pivotal role of families. By understanding the complexities of family dynamics and their impact on children's lives, policymakers and social workers can design more effective interventions to prevent children from slipping through the cracks and to find hope and stability within the embrace of a loving family.

Dr Mohapanele's study offers a step towards a brighter future for vulnerable children and the families that shape their world.

Dr Karabo Mohapanele

Submitted on Thu, 09/28/2023 - 09:21