The church and single parenting: perceptions and social support
Van Staden, Lucrechia Ziana
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The goal of this study was to investigate how single parenting is perceived within the context of the churches in Kuils River and to establish if any support structures are in place to assist single parents. This research was confined to the Kuils River community and was conducted in three churches of different denominations. A qualitative approach in the form of an exploratory study was used to conduct this research. Participants were recruited from the three churches in Kuils River. Purposive sampling allowed the researcher to recruit suitable participants, comprising single mothers and fathers (20 years old and above) who attended church as well as the respective church leaders. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with these single parents and church leaders. Data was manually transcribed and analysed by means of thematic analysis. Ethical approval was sought from the University’s Ethics Committee and permission was granted by the respective church leaders. Participants were informed and assured of confidentiality, anonymity and that their participation in the study was completely voluntary. Informed consent was obtained and participants were informed of their rights to withdraw from the study. The findings indicated that single parents with immediate family obtained support through their informal support networks, while those without immediate family relied on the church for support. The findings also indicated that while the church provided support to a certain extent, the type of support offered did not fulfil the needs of single-parent families, and that the church should be doing more to support and accommodate single parents. While the church and the church leaders prided themselves on embracing and displaying non-discriminatory attitudes towards single parents, stigma, shame, feelings of inadequacy and failure to acknowledge single parents in the congregation has caused single parents to feel excluded, morally inferior and alienated within the church.