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South African Psychology

According to Robert B. Lawson, Jean E. Graham, and Kristin M. Baker, psychology has been strongly influenced by the nation’s political turmoil, particularly over the past sixty years (Lawson, Graham, & Baker, 2007, p. 437). Colonial, apartheid, capitalist, and patriarchal forces all influenced South African psychology, resulting in the formation of a psychology faced with adversity; the apartheid period intentionally neglected and isolated the field of psychology so that when South Africa first held democratic elections in the mid-1990s, the problems facing psychology as a science and profession were merely beginning to surface (2007, p. 438).

South African psychology during the apartheid period was dominated by political influences, such as selective economic sanctions, segregation, and people being exiled from their native land; the influences of the apartheid period resulted in a grossly underdeveloped psychological field at the time of the fall of the apartheid (Lawson, Graham, & Baker, 2007, p.438). With approximately 5,000 psychologists for a population of over forty-three million people, practicing clinical psychologists greatly outnumber research psychologists, leaving few South African psychologists capable of crafting broad-scale psychological interventions (2007, p. 438). Today, vast efforts are being made to extend South African psychology beyond its borders, which is mostly due to the apartheid no longer isolating the field form international scholarship (2007, p.438).

The first steps for South African psychology in the aftermath of apartheid were to take a more collectivist orientation, indigenous focus, rigorous scholarship, and international exchange (Lawson, Graham, & Baker, 2007, p. 438). South African psychologists face the dilemma of keeping international influence and indigenous psychology in balance with South African perspectives; South Africa is in desperate need of psychologists that are willing and able to assist in overcoming the aftermath of apartheid, especially with issues such as violence, poverty, racism, and HIV/AIDS (2007, p. 439).

While the resources available to South African psychologists are limited due to past apartheid constraints, measures are being taken to expand the number of psychologists trained to be basic researchers and field clinical psychologists (Lawson, Graham, & Baker, 2007, p. 439). Psychologists in South Africa race to respond to the social pressures and constraints placed on the field in the apartheid aftermath and there are now multiple efforts underway to develop South African psychology as both a profession and a science (2007, p. 439). In South Africa, they had some tough times. They had to bring in their own as president and he has been working hard to get his country back on its feet after the apartheid. There were lots of racial issues that needed to be resolved and also the improving the people’s trains of thought. Psychology is one of their answers and they are working to get it going even it has taken a while (pg 438).

South Africa, the Apartheid System, and its effects on Psychology

With the apartheid system that was established in South Africa major turmoil was caused amongst native and non-native South Africans. The apartheid system was based on laws of segregation, which grew in severity as time passed. Some of the first segregation laws that were established did not allow for whites and "non-whites" to interact with each other. Even if these interactions wanted, whites and blacks were not allowed to marry or engage socially. In addition to this, "white jobs" and "black jobs" were established which also created segregation in the workplace (Lawson, Graham, & Baker, 2007, p. 438). As apartheid progressed into its final stages, black South African citizens were no longer able to live in South Africa; they were sent back to African homelands causing them to lose their citizenship and be exiled (Lawson, Graham, & Baker, 2007, p. 438). Around 1990 the anti-apartheid era began, which helped to reintegrate blacks into the South African society. After receiving pressure from the United States and Great Britain, the apartheid system that once ruled South Africa started to become undone. The constitution in South Africa was rewritten in 1994, which helped usher in Nelson Mandela as the country’s political leader. With the country in his control, he completely outlawed any remainders of the apartheid system (Lawson, Graham, & Baker, 2007, p. 438).

While the apartheid system was still in place, South African psychology became extremely underdeveloped due to political power controlling everything in this society. Even today psychology is greatly underdeveloped in this country. There is little to no diversity amongst psychologists in South Africa. Not only are a majority of the practicing psychologists white, but most of them practice clinical psychology, rather than focusing on research (Lawson, Graham, & Baker, 2007, p. 438). This does not allow much of a chance for many psychological breakthroughs or findings to come out of South Africa. With the apartheid system abolished and a new democratic system in place, the education of psychology is being revamped improving the field greatly. More efforts are being made to encourage South Africans, especially blacks, to join the research field of psychology. Advocates are hoping their efforts will help to improve both basic and applied psychological research, and allow psychology in South Africa to branch out beyond itself (Lawson, Graham, & Baker, 2007, p. 438).

See also

Category:South African journals

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