This chapter describes how adolescent girls orphaned by AIDS and living in child-headed households encounter various difficulties in the achievement of their developmental tasks. The microscopic perspective of this chapter is an exploration, description and interpretation of the phenomenon of HIV&AIDS within the adolescents’ perspectives of their life-worlds, and a comparison of the findings of the reported study with the literature and theories of adolescence as a developmental phase. The investigation draws attention to the negative impact of HIV&AIDS upon the developmental tasks of adolescent girls in child-headed households, as well as the ensuing poverty experienced by these children and their families in the rural areas of KwaZulu/Natal.

As the microscopic view of this research is unveiled, it becomes apparent that adolescent girls orphaned by AIDS find it a challenge to cope with new responsibilities that inhibit their development and prevent them from fulfilling developmental tasks. They become absorbed in unfamiliar adult responsibilities that entail caring for their ailing parents and siblings, hence creating new educational and social challenges, with accompanying financial, developmental, emotional and psychological problems. The girls are compelled to skip the adolescent phase, complete heavier workloads, abandon school and perform more general household duties without parental supervision and guidance.

This study investigated how adolescent girls in child-headed households cope with stigma, discrimination, economic difficulties, school attendance, fees, distress, trauma, personal grief, loss of identity and shame, as well as the fear of abandonment, rejection and death. Furthermore, the study argues that within a child-headed family, adolescent girls are socially and educationally vulnerable due to their social and familial context, roles and position.

In: From microscope to kaleidoscope