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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Tydskr. geesteswet. vol.48 n.4 Pretoria  2008


'n Oorsigartikel oor tipes gesinsrituele en die simboliese betekenis daarvan vir jong volwassenes


A review article on types of family rituals and their symbolic meanings for young adults



Vera Roos; Esmé van Rensburg

Skool vir Psigososiale Gedragswetenskappe Psigologie, Noordwes-Universiteit




Die ingrypende impak wat veranderings soos HIV/Vigs en egskeidings op gesinstrukture het, asook die voorkoms van geweld, noodsaak dat daar herbesin word oor die belangrikheid van gesinsrituele. Gesinsrituele speel 'n rol in die vestiging van toeganklike gesinsverhoudings. Dit fasiliteer die ontwikkeling van gesinslede se identiteit en hul geborgenheid. Rituele kom herhaaldelik voor, word hoog aangeskryf en het simboliese betekenis. Jong volwassenes tussen 19 en 22 jaar is gevra om aan die navorsing deel te neem en aan te dui watter tipe rituele in hulle gesinne van oorsprong voorkom asook wat die simboliese betekenis daarvan vir hulle is. Geskrewe data is ingesamel en 'n kwalitatiewe metode van data-ontleding is gebruik om die data te analiseer. Die bevindinge het aangedui dat godsdienstige aktiwiteite, gesinsetes, jaarlikse herdenkings, televisie en gesinsuitstappies as tipiese rituele geïdentifiseer is. Gesinsrituele verbind verskillende generasies met mekaar, bou verhoudings, beklemtoon die unieke aard van gesinne en dien as ondersteuning vir mekaar. Voorts skep dit 'n voorspelbare omgewing wat aan gesinslede 'n gevoel van behoort gee en waarin gesinslede selfvertroue ontwikkel. Waar gesinsrituele ontbreek het, is beskrywings gekenmerk deur vyandige en meganistiese interpersoonlike kontak en min emosionele inhoude is opgemerk. Hierdie afwesigheid van emosionele inhoude was veral opvallend in gesinstrukture wat gekenmerk is deur verandering, soos egskeiding. Die bevindinge van hierdie navorsing het verreikende implikasies vir die voorkoms van nuwe gesinstrukture, soos kinderhoofhuishoudings en enkelouergesinne.

Trefwoorde: Gesinsrituele, opbouende gesinsverhoudings, verhoudingswelsyn, persoonlike betekenisgewing.


The far-reaching impact of events such as HIV/AIDS and divorce on family structures, together with the prevalence of violence in South Africa, necessitate a new look at the significance of family rituals. Family rituals can be seen as uniquely meaningful family interactions that transmit the family's enduring beliefs, values, attitudes and goals, and provide the family with a sense of stability and a means of socialisation. Family rituals play a role in the establishment of accessible family relationships. They facilitate the development of the identities and emotional security of family members. Rituals are repetitive, are highly valued and have symbolic meanings. They add meaning to family life and can support a family's stability during turbulent times and transition. Healthy rituals in family life may buffer families from the negative effects of environmental stress and serve as a protective factor.
Young adults between 19 and 22 years were invited to participate in the research and to describe the types of rituals occurring in their core families, together with their symbolic meanings. Written data were collected and a qualitative data analysis method was applied. The findings indicated that religious activities, family meals, anniversaries, television and family outings were identified as typical rituals. The high incidence of rituals pertaining to religious activities was surprising. It may be due to the fact that the participants were students studying at a traditional, value-driven university. Family meals played an important role in family integration. The physical space in which the meal takes place fostered emotional intimacy between family members. The young adults in this group described annual celebrations and anniversaries as one of the rituals present in their families; with birthdays and Christmas being events that were especially celebrated. Watching television was also seen as an important family ritual. Family outings such as shopping, picnics or going on an outing were also considered significant family rituals. Family outings can have the important function of bonding. The variety of rituals that were identified suggests that the extent of interpersonal contact exists on a continuum. Some rituals, such as watching television together, required little personal interaction, while visits and sharing meals were based on intimate interpersonal interactions. It was clear, however, that the type of ritual performed gained its significance from the symbolic value attached to that ritual. This research found that family members' bonds were strengthened and maintained through family rituals and that a unique identity was developed with which family members could identify. Within their safe family boundaries, family members were given opportunities to develop interpersonal skills. These skills were evident in mutually respectful relationships that benefited the family as a socialisation unit, and were also transferred to the broader context of society.
The repetitive nature of rituals contributed to the establishment of a safe and predictable environment, which protected the boundaries of the family and its members so that the various family functions could take place. Forming an identity and developing interpersonal skills such as empathy, respect and an awareness of other people were critical for functioning in any human context. From this research it became clear that family rituals linked different generations to each other, strengthened relationships, emphasised the uniqueness of families and supplied a mutually supportive structure. They also created a predictable environment that gave family members a sense of belonging, and that nurtured self-confidence. Where family rituals were lacking, descriptions were typified by antagonistic and mechanistic interpersonal contact, and little emotional content could be discerned. The lack of emotional content was particularly apparent in family structures characterised by changes such as divorce. The findings of this research have far-reaching implications for upcoming new family structures such as child-headed households and single-parent families.

Key concepts: Family rituals, constructive family relations, relationship well-being, personal attachment of meaning


Full text available only in PDF format. 



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Vera Roos is 'n medeprofessor in Sielkunde by die Noordwes-Universiteit se Potchefstroomse kampus sedert 2004. Vanaf 1992 tot 2003 het sy by die Universiteit van Pretoria gemeenskapsprojekete bestuur met die spesifieke oogmerk om die potensiaalontwikkeling van voorheen-benadeelde gemeenskappe te fasiliteer. Tot op datum het sy 26 portuurgeëvalueerde artikels in nasionale en internasionale tydskrifte gepubliseer en bydraes in 10 hoofstukke van handboeke gemaak. Sy het ook by verskeie nasionale en internasionale kongresse voordragte gelewer en plakkaataanbiedings gemaak oor onderwerpe wat fokus op instaatstellende kontekste, verhoudingswelsyn en ouer mense. Vera se teoretiese benadering naamlik dat die dinamiese prosesse in komplekse sisteme in 'n breër sosio-kulturele omgewing ingebed is, het die agtergrond voorsien vir die ontwikkeling van die Mmogo metode. Hierdie metode stel navorsers in staat om die betekenisse wat mense aan ervarings heg op 'n kultuur-sensitiewe wyse te ontdek.

Vera Roos has been an associate professor of Psychology at the North-West University's Potchefstroom Campus since 2004. She managed community psychology projects with the specific objective to facilitate the development of potential within disadvantaged communities from 1992 until 2003, at the University of Pretoria. To date she has published 26 peer reviewed papers in national and international journals and contributed to 10 chapters in textbooks. She has also presented various papers and posters at national and international conferences on topics focusing on enabling contexts, relational wellbeing and older persons. Vera's theoretical approach, namely that the dynamic processes in complex systems are embedded in a broader social-cultural environment, provided the background for the development of the Mmogo method. This method assists researchers to discover meanings that people attach to experiences in a culturally sensitive manner.

Esmé van Rensburg is 'n medeprofessor verbonde aan die vakgroep Psigologie van die Skool vir Psigososiale Gedragswetenskappe by die Noordwes-Universiteit (Potchefstroomse kampus). Sy het die grade BA, BA (Hons), en MA (Voorligtingpsigologie) behaal by die PU vir CHO en haar PhD (Kindersielkunde) by die Universiteit van die Vrystaat. Sy doseer tans kinderpsigologie en -patologie en etiek en professionele praktyk op MA en Honneursvlak. Sy is die outeur en mede-outeur van verskeie publikasies. Sy het ook reeds 'n groot aantal lesings by verskeie internasionale kongresse gelewer. Sy was in 2005 as gasdosent na die Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam genooi. Sy bied op 'n gereelde basis CPD-kursusse aan vir sielkundiges en het ook 'n privaatpraktyk.

Esmé van Rensburg is an associate professor in the subject group Psychology of the School for Psychosocial Behavioural Sciences at the NorthWest University (Potchefstroom Campus). She obtained the BA, BA (Hons) and MA (Counselling psychology) degrees at the PU for CHE and her PhD (Child Psychology) at the University of the Free State. She currently lectures child psychology and child pathology as well as ethics and professional practice on Masters and Honours level. She is the author and co-author of several publications. She also has presented a number of papers at various international conferences. In 2005 she was invited as a guest lecturer at the Vrije University of Amsterdam. She regularly presents CPD courses for psychologists and also has a private practice.