04 SES 14 E, Insights into the Resilience of Children and Adolescents – A Different Approach
Children and adolescences face various stress and threats, such as bullying, violence or ineffective parenting while growing up. However, there are some children and adolescents who cope with these crises and maintain positive function and development without emerging any long-term effects. The capacity, these children / adolescences develop is named resilience. According to Masten (2014, p. 6) ‘Resilience can be broadly defined as the capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully to disturbances that threaten function, viability, or development’. The following studies provide a small contribution to the field of resilience-research and point out which difficulties children are exposed to at a young age and how they deal with them.
In the first presentation, a study will be presented about the resilience and life trajectories of children after residential care in Switzerland (Canton of Zurich). Therefore, the researchers conducted 37 interviews with persons aged 45 to 85 years, who were residents in residential care between 1940 and 1990. The main aim of the study was to explore differences in individual outcomes regarding their life-trajectories. The results suggested a complex interaction between resilience and vulnerability. Especially critical life events seem to have a strong impact on life-trajectories. However, to facilitate the transition from the residential care, professionals at this time already started to create forms of leaving care settings.
The second presentation deals with experienced violence in the family of middle-school students from four different EU-countries (Austria, Germany, Slovenia, and Spain). In total, data of 5149 students was taken into account, whereof 23% of students mentioned were being physically abused and 17% declared being witness of physical spousal abuse. Different than assumed, some of these adolescents reported no engagement in violence nor symptoms of depression and were considered as ‘resilient’. These students were compared to their non-violence exposed peers. The results showed that resilient youth face more risk factors, such as higher levels of aggression, drug use or alcohol consumption, however, also more protective characteristics, such as self-acceptance, future-optimism or positive relation to parents or teachers, than their peers without family violence experience.
The third presentation examined the difficulties and consequences of students who experienced bullying regarding their resilience. The main aim of the study was to develop an instrument, which measures the tendency of being resilient of primary grade students. Additionally, it was examined if the tendency of being resilient could act as a buffer and which factors could explain this tendency of primary school students. Thus, 537 students (268 boys and 267 girls) in the 4th grade of Austrian primary school classes were surveyed with a paper-pencil-questionnaire. The results showed that the psychometric criteria of the four-item scale were adequate to measure the tendency of being resilient. Further, peer relations (a high level of social integration) had the highest impact on the tendency of being resilient. However, the tendency of being resilient had no buffering function on resilience.
Finally, the discussant will summarize and compare the essential results, strengths and weaknesses of all three studies and create a connection between research and practice.
Lösel, F., & Bender, D. (2014). Aggressive, delinquent, and violent outcomes of school bullying: Do family and individual factors have a protective function? Journal of school violence, 13(1), 59-79.
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