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J Relig Health. 2015 Feb;54(1):187-201. doi: 10.1007/s10943-013-9799-6.

The religious-spiritual self-image and behaviours among adolescent street children in Harare, Zimbabwe.

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Department of Psychology, University of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box MP 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe,


The present study sought to explore the relationship between street childhood and adolescent religious-spiritual self-image. In Zimbabwe, there has been a rise in street children population in the urban centres. The current study investigated whether adolescent street children live and work in an eco-developmentally risky context for the development of positive religious-spiritual self-image. This rise in street children population has been in the context of a socio-politico-economic crisis, which was marked by record inflation rates and the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The research objectives were to investigate the nature of religious-spiritual self-image for street-living adolescent children, and to determine the effects of self-image on the behaviour of street-living adolescent children. A psycho-ethnographic research design was employed in this study. This involved collection of data for a sustained period in the context within which the participants live. The participants were 16 street-living adolescent children aged between 12 and 18 years and six key informants all in Harare in Zimbabwe. A total of 22 participants took part in this study. Snowballing was used to recruit key informant interviewees, while purposive sampling was used to recruit participants for focus group discussions, in-depth interview, and participant and non-participant observations. Key informant interviews, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, and participant and non-participant observations were the data collection methods. Thematic content analysis was used for analysing the data. This thematic content analytic method helped to identify themes on the religious-spiritual self-image that emerged from the data. Data analysis revealed that the adolescent street children's religious-spiritual self-image is largely negative. Most street-living adolescent children believed that they were controlled and influenced by evil spirits and that their relatives were casting bad spells on them. The negative religious-spiritual self-image among the street children had important negative implications on psychological functioning, moral behaviours, and social relations for the street-living children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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