They don't listen: contemporary respect relations between Zulu grandmothers and granddaughters/-sons

Abstract

Intergenerational respect is the hallmark of social relations in African society. In South Africa, respect for older persons is thought to have suffered due to factors such as rapid urbanization and modernization, and the disruptive effects of labour migration and harsh apartheid laws on family life. Individual and group interviews were conducted with over 80 Zulu grandmothers and teenaged granddaughters and grandsons living in urban and rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal in 1995 and 1996, to elicit contemporary views on respect for older persons. The study confirmed that the teaching of respect is regarded as a key role of Zulu grandmothers. Contemporary granddaughters are less obedient and subservient than earlier generations but nevertheless rely on their grandmothers for moral guidance and practical assistance. The grandmothers in the study complained that their granddaughters did not always listen to their advice. In particular, issues relating to teenage pregnancy threatened to strain good grandmother-granddaughter relationships. The participants discussed the value of the re-introduction of rituals controlled by older women in traditional society, such as virginity examinations, to restore the social order. The study concludes that many aspects of grandmothers' teachings still have relevance for todays young people who are starved of authority and guidance in their lives.

References

Albert, S.M. & Cattell, M.G. 1994. Old age in global perspective: cross-cultural and cross-national views. New York: G.K. Hall.

Apt, N.A. 1996. Coping with old age in a changing Africa. Aldershot: Avebury.

Brindley, M. 1982. The role of old women in Zulu culture. Ph.D. thesis, Durban: University of Natal.

Braun, F.J. 1994. There is no respect! Modernisation and the changing status of elderly men. In: Braun, F.J., Mugabe, M. & Coombes, Y. (Eds) The situation of the elderly in Botswana. Gaborone: University of Botswana, pp. 53-65.

Burman, S. & Preston-Whyte, E. 1992. Questionable issue: illegitimacy in South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Cattell, M.G. 1989. Old age in rural Kenya: gender, the life course and social change. Ph.D. thesis, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.

Cattell, M.G. 1994. Nowadays it isnt easy to advise the young": grandmothers and granddaughters among Abaiuyia of Kenya. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 9(2); 157-178,

Cattell, M. 1997a. The discourse of neglect: family support for the elderly in Sarnia. In: Weisner, T.S., Bradley, C. & Kilbride, P.L. (Eds) African families and the crisis of social change. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, pp. 157-183.

Cattell, M.G. 1997b. Ubuntu, African elderly and the African family crisis. Southern African Journal of Gerontology, 6(2): 37-39.

Cattell, M. 1997c. Zulu grandmothers socialization of granddaughters. Southern African Journal of Gerontology, 6(1): 14-16.

Cattell, M.G. 1998. Elders complaints: discourses on old age and social change in rural Kenya and urban Philadelphia. In: Hamilton, H. (Ed.) Language and communication in old age: multidisciplinary perspectives. New York and London: Garland, pp, 295-317.

Ferreira, M., Mailer, V., Prinsloo, F.R. & Gillis, L.S. 1992. Multidimensional survey of elderly South Africans, 1990-91: key findings. Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council/University of Cape Town Centre for Gerontology.

Govender, P. 1998. Dot earns virgin her stripes, Sunday Times, October 25, p. 3

Hamilton, G. 1998. Virgin testing: one answer to the AIDS epidemic? Indicator South Africa, 15(3): 62-66.

Krige, E.J. 1950. The social system of the Zulus. Second edition. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter & Shooter.

Makoni, S.B. 1996. They talk to us like children": language and intergenerational discourse in an African township. Southern African Journal of Gerontology, 5(1): 9-14.

Mchunu, M. 1995. Induna keeps virgins on the straight and narrow. Daily News, December 20.

Møller, V. 1990. A role for black seniors in educare: a community assessment. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.

Møller, V. 1994a. Intergenerational relations in a society in transition: a South African case study. Ageing and Society, 14: 155-189.

Møller, V. 1994b. Township youth and their homework. Pretoria: HSRC Publishers.

Møller, V. 1997. AIDS: the grandmothers disease in Southern Africa. Ageing and Society, 17: 461-466.

Møller, V. 1998. Innovations to promote an intergenerational society and the well-being of the South African elderly. Society in Transition, 29(1-2): 1- 12.

Møller, V. & Sotshongaye, A. 1996. My family eat this money too": pension sharing and self-respect among Zulu grandmothers. Southern African Journal of Gerontology, 5(2): 9-19.

Morgan-George, M. 1997. Sex with strings attached. Daily News, February 11, p. 8.

Mthembu, T. & Møller, V. 1991. Stairway to success: youth clubs in Greater Durban. In: Møller, V. (Ed.) Lost generation found: blackyouth at leisure. Indicator Project South Africa, University of Natal, Durban, pp. 29-43.

Naidoo, Y. 1996. Teenage pregnancies linked to violence. Sunday Tribune, October 20, p, 13.

Newton, L. 1996. Zulu goddess to revive lost cultural spirit. Mail & Guardian, 12(19), May 10-16.

Ross, F.C. 1995. Vmntu ngumntu ngabanye abantu: the support networks of black families in South Africa. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.

Sung, K. 1997. Filial piety in modem times: timely adaptation and practice patterns. Supplement. Australasian Journal on Ageing, 17(1): 88-92.
Triandis, H.C. 1995. Individualism and collectivism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Tlou, S.D. 1994. The elderly and the youths perceptions of each other. In: Bruun, F.J., Mugabe, M. & Coombes,Y. (Eds) The situation of the elderly in Botswana. Gaborone: University of Botswana, pp, 43-51.

Van der Berg, S. 1998. Ageing, public finance and social security in South Africa. Southern African Journal of Gerontology, 7(1): 3-9.

Van der Geest. S. 1997. Between respect and reciprocity: managing old age in rural Ghana. Southern African Journal of Gerontology, 6(2): 20-25.

Van Rooyen, C.A.J. 1997. "Its a fact that we as the youth are in a hurry": youth, sex and sexuality in the New South Africa. In: Leggett, T., Mailer, V. & Richards, R. (Eds) My life in the new South Africa : a youth perspective. Pretoria: HSRC Publishers, pp. 147-167.

Albert, S.M. & Cattell, M.G. 1994. Old age in global perspective: cross-cultural and cross-national views. New York: G.K. Hall.
Published
1999-10-01