Migration and the Zimbabwean Diaspora

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Temperament and personality

A child‘s temperament and personality are important characteristics to be taken into account in the study of resilience. Temperament is generally understood as referring to characteristic feelings and behaviours of a child that are innate rather than acquired through learning and appear early in development (Calkins, 2012). Thomas and Chess (1977) identified three types of temperament in children (difficult; easy; and slow to warm up) based on nine temperament traits. These traits are: activity, regularity, initial reaction, adaptability, intensity, mood, distractibility, persistence and attention span, and sensitivity.
They proposed that a child‘s temperament can influence his/her interactions and relationships with parents and peers and affect behaviour and school experience. These early interactional patterns set the tone and influence a child‘s long term functioning and well-being. Children with difficult temperaments are often considered vulnerable as they are more likely than those with easy temperaments to be treated harshly by parents/caregivers, have less positive ways of coping and tend to gravitate towards high risk environments (Hetherington, Bridges & Insabella, 1998; Wachs, 2006). Thus a difficult temperament can act as a risk process. On the other hand, an easy temperament can be viewed as a protective process because research shows that children with easy temperaments have generally more adaptive and positive outcomes (Olsson, Bond, Burns, Vella-Brodrick & Sawyer, 2003; Sanson & Smart, 2001; Vassallo, Smart, Sanson & Dussuyer, 2004).
Even though temperament is largely considered an individual process with a direct link to resilience, it should still be viewed within a context of the interaction between a child and his/her environment. Thomas and Chess (1977) studied the relationship between temperament and environment by comparing a sample of white, middle class families with a high educational status with Puerto Rican working class families. They found significant differences between the two groups. For example, middle class parents placed great emphasis on early development in the belief that problems in early childhood are symptomatic of later psychological problems and reported more behavioural problems in their children, whilst Puerto Rican parents believed that children were likely to outgrow early childhood problems, thus reporting less behavioural problems. Parental perceptions of the two groups show how expectations of behaviour differ and could cause a negative child-environment fit. The researchers thus concluded that there needs to be a good fit between a child‘s temperament and his family environment in order to attain positive outcomes. Thomas and Chess (1977) further proposed that the temperament dimensions mix of the members of a family can greatly affect family life and relationships. To illustrate this, they explain that a slow paced parent may struggle with a highly active child resulting in conflict.
The parent may perceive this as a behavioural problem and act accordingly. In this way, a child‘s temperament may constitute a risk as a result of the environment. These findings reinforce the importance of individuality when exploring risk and protective processes and resilience. Personality traits have also been found to act as risk or protective processes in children and adolescents, facilitating or hindering the path to resilience (Carbonell et al., 2002; Olsson et al., 2003). Personality can be broadly defined as the array of dynamic and organised characteristics that an individual possesses and which influence his/her emotions, cognitions, motivations and behaviours. These patterns of feelings, behaviours, thoughts and social interactions are long-term and affect a person‘s expectations, values, attitudes and how he/she sees himself/herself. Personality can be an indicator of how an individual deals with problems and stress (Krauskopf & Saunders, 1994; Winnie & Gittinger, 1973).
A number of studies have explored the relationship between personality and resilience by looking at indicators such as self-worth and coping, finding that personality can influence resilient outcomes in adolescents and is positively or negatively associated with certain personality traits. For example, adolescents with high self-worth were associated with the traits of agreeableness, extraversion and openness to new experiences; whilst those with low self-worth were associated with emotional instability and neuroticism (Campbell-Sillsa, Cohana & Steina, 2006; Davey, Goettler Eaker & Henley Walters, 2003; Harter, 1986; Patterson & McCubbin, 1983). Like with temperament, the link between personality and resilience should be viewed within the context of the individual‘s interactions with his/her environment because the personality traits associated with resilience, either positively or negatively, may have emerged as a result of such interaction. Mischel (1999, p.424) states that ―what people do depends to a surprising degree on the particular situation and context‖. Consequently, it is one‘s experiences that may lead to the emergence of personality traits related to resilience.
Therefore, it is necessary to determine if context can alter personality, before concluding that personality is the process that contributes to resilience in young people. Coping Central to the concept of resilience is the capacity of an individual to cope in times of difficulty. Coping can be defined as ―the thing that people do to avoid being harmed by lifestrain‖ (Pearlin & Schooler, 1982, p.109), ―constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person‖ (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 141). In other words, coping is how an individual manages the challenges of the environment.
Pearlin and Schooler (1982), through content analysis of 2300 interviews, identified three principal styles of coping. Firstly, what they defined as ―responses that change the situation out of which strainful experience arises‖ (p. 115), a fairly rarely used style of coping where an individual must identify the stressful situation and then act to change it. This is not always possible as it is difficult to identify stressors, there is no guarantee that the action taken to rectify the situation may not cause further stress and that some situations cannot be changed.
Secondly, ―responses that control the meaning of the strainful experience after it occurs but before the emergence of stress‖ (p. 115), the most widely used type which involves selectively evaluating the stressful experience by focussing on the less threatening aspects of it and viewing it in the context of the overall life situation. In this way, the perception of the experience is changed into a more manageable one. Lastly, they identified ―responses that function more for the control of the stress itself after it has emerged‖ (p. 115). This way of coping involves stress management skills to deal with the stress arising from a situation or event.

Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Migration and the Zimbabwean Diaspora
1.2 ―Diaspora orphans‖
1.3 Pilot Study
1.4 Repatriation
1.5 Positive Psychology
1.6 Resilience
1.7 Aim and methodology of this study
1.8 Following chapters
1.9 Conclusions
Chapter 2 Theoretical framework and literature review
Chapter 3 Research design and methodology
Chapter 4 “I just cry!” Tsungai’s story
Chapter 5 “I am with people who help me” ‒ Chiedza’s story
Chapter 6 “I survived!” Wadzanai’s story
Chapter 7 Conclusions and recommendations


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