Contemplating Repetitive and Symbolic Social Action: Viewing Family Rituals through the Eyes of Young Adults

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ria SMIT, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Rituals have the potential of playing an important role in sustaining and enhancing quality family life. In focussing on family members’ participation in rituals and the meaning they attach to these rituals, studies have turned to family members in different age groups during different phases of the life cycle of the family. Yet, there remains a paucity of research pertaining to the perceptions and experiences of young adults regarding family rituals. This is specifically the case in the multicultural South African society, where few studies have focused on family rituals in general and even fewer on family rituals as experienced and viewed by young adults in particular. The paper reports on a study with the aim to address the lacuna that exists in research in South Africa on family rituals by taking young single adults, who still reside in their families of origin, as the research population. Using a qualitative methodological approach, the focus fell specifically on the different kinds of rituals that exist in the family of origin of young adults and the symbolic meaning or value young adults attach to these family rituals. The narratives of the 40 research participants (across five different language categories) revealed that most of the young adults in the sample regularly partook in family rituals and that many of them ascribed positive symbolic meaning to these rituals. Apart from discussing the themes related to the positive value attributed to family rituals and what this means for gaining a better theoretical understanding of dynamic family life in South Africa, attention is also paid to the few cases where participants criticized some of the rituals practiced in their families, the reasons why they did not endorse these rituals and thus viewed them as having a negative impact on family relations and well-being.