Original Research

Maladaptive behaviours of maternal orphans in high schools of Tshwane North of Gauteng, South Africa

Thembi V. Simbeni, Mathildah M. Mokgatle
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 15, No 1 | a3887 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v15i1.3887 | © 2023 Thembi V. Simbeni, Mathildah M. Mokgatle | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 October 2022 | Published: 16 October 2023

About the author(s)

Thembi V. Simbeni, Sub-department of Health Systems Management and Policy, Department of Public Health, School of Health Care Sciences, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa
Mathildah M. Mokgatle, Sub-department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Public Health, School of Health Care Sciences, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Some orphaned adolescents find it difficult to cope and adjust to the loss of a mother. Studies to explore specific adjustment challenges experienced by this vulnerable group, are necessitated by the growing need to inform support services for orphans.

Aim: This study sought to explore maladaptive behaviours among adolescent maternal orphans.

Setting: Participants were recruited from the Tshwane North secondary schools of Gauteng province in South Africa.

Methods: A qualitative exploratory design was employed; maternal adolescent orphans were purposively selected and included in a one-on-one qualitative enquiry. Twenty-five participants were included in the study. Data were analysed thematically using NVivo12.

Results: Emerged themes were: negative thoughts such as suicidal ideation, negative perception of self; silence coded as ‘keep life matters private and hide personal feelings’; having psychosocial problems reported as anger, fighting, shouting, crying, short temper; engaging in risky behaviours in the form of smoking and alcohol use and unsafe termination of pregnancy; social withdrawal by self-isolation and being afraid of people.

Conclusion: Whole school peer interaction groups could address the functional problems of social ability and silence. Skills development programmes, and other activities that enhance constructive use of free time, instil hope and build self-esteem are recommended.

Contribution: The findings of this study serve as a basis to inform interventions that are geared towards supporting adolescent orphans through the school health teams, as one of the domains of the re-engineering of South Africa’s primary health care system.


maladaptive behaviour; orphaned adolescents; maternal orphans; Tshwane North; Gauteng province

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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