Extended family childcare arrangements in a context of AIDS: collapse or adaptation?
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Families are subjected to a number of social, economic, political and demographic challenges. In recent years, the AIDS epidemic has constituted a major challenge for already poor families due to its wide reaching social, economic and health consequences. The devastating consequence of HIV and AIDS is being seen through the prolonged illness and death of family members of prime working age which impacts on family livelihoods and the ability to provide for and protect its members. This paper forms part of a review commissioned by the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS of qualitative studies of how families in southern Africa have changed, and are changing, as a result of the impact of HIV and AIDS. This paper presents results of how
extended family childcare arrangements are changing as a result of the AIDS epidemic. In a southern African context, family denotes a wider array of relations than biological parents and their children with children growing up amongst a multitude of relations sharing responsibility for their care and upbringing (Chirwa, 2002; Verhoef, 2005). Recently, there has been growing interest in the capacity of the extended family to care for the increasing number of children whose parents have died. However, literature on the role of the extended family in caring for orphaned children remains contradictory. One approach the social rupture thesis (Chirwa, 2002) suggests that the extended family network is collapsing under the strain of AIDS. On the other hand, families are portrayed as resilient and dynamic entities which are adapting their systems of childcare in response to the epidemic (Kuo, 2007). In line with Abebe and Aase (2007) and Adams, Cekan, and Sauerborn (1998), this paper proposes a continuum of survival rather than a polarisation of extended family childcare arrangements.