The Impact of Stepfamily Structures and their Dynamics on the Phenomenon of Children Living and Working on the Streets in the North-West Province of South Africa


  • Dr. Karabo Mohapanele Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria; and North-West University Mafikeng, South Africa
  • Dr. Kiran Odhav Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University Mafikeng, South Africa
  • Dr. Nompumelelo Zungu Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa; and School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa


Children living and working on the streets, stepfamily, stepparent, stepchildren


Purpose: There is a concerning increase in children living on South African streets. This surge is influenced by poverty, family instability, parental separation, domestic violence and child maltreatment. Research suggests that stepfamily environments tend to be unstable and characterized by strained relationships, making them less ideal than traditional family structures. This paper aims to investigate the impact of stepfamily dynamics on the prevalence of children living and working on the streets in South Africa. Methodology: Attachment theory is used, and it draws upon qualitative data gathered from a Ph.D. study. The dataset consists of information collected from 15 street children receiving services at two drop-in centres in the North West Province, South Africa, and their parents (total: 30 participants). In-depth interviews were conducted in Setswana. Data were manually coded, and (sub-) themes were analysed. Ethical approval was obtained from North-West University. Findings: The study reveals that a lower proportion of children emerged from nuclear families (13%) and extended families (14%) as compared to those from single-parent families (40%) and stepfamilies (33%). A separate paper looked at the single parent family. It is important to explore stepfamily and single parent family dynamics separately, as they have unique family processes. This paper specifically looks at various dynamics in stepfamily structures, where children cited mistreatment by stepparents as the primary reason for them turning to the streets. Implications: It is essential to strengthen family and children’s policies, to encourage parents to engage in social programs and receive support from social workers, and to facilitate their adaptation to stepfamilies and stepchildren. Originality: This is one of the first papers that explores the impact of stepfamily structures and their dynamics on the phenomenon of children living and working on the streets in South Africa


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How to Cite

Dr. Karabo Mohapanele, Dr. Kiran Odhav, & Dr. Nompumelelo Zungu. (2023). The Impact of Stepfamily Structures and their Dynamics on the Phenomenon of Children Living and Working on the Streets in the North-West Province of South Africa. Researchers World - International Refereed Social Sciences Journal, 14(01), 48–57. Retrieved from