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Adolescent risk and protective factors

4988 words (20 pages) Essay in Education

20/04/17 Education Reference this

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Chapter 1 Introduction

There is a close connection between problematic behaviour in adolescents with the risk factors and protective factors present in environment the adolescents has contact with. Research in the social science have investigated that the amount of risk factors in the environment harm individuals and also that there is a critical need to stimulate protective factors to buffer those risk factors. (Birmingham, 2004) The problematic behaviour in adolescents can be reduced by enhancing the individual’s resiliency; the ability to rebound from hardship. According to Ahern, (2004) empirical evidence indicates that resilience is something which is dynamic, developmental in nature, and interactive with one’s environment. In order to investigate how the environment is associated with resiliency of adolescents and what preventive measures could be taken, the adolescents’ problematic behaviour and risk and protective factors is studied

Adolescents’ Problematic Behaviour

It is estimated that one half of today’s youth are involved in some type of problematic behaviours. (Yoonsun, 2001) Different problematic behaviours portrayed by the adolescents include, delinquency, violence, substance use, risky sexual behaviour, truancy and dropouts. (Yoonsuns, 2001, Urdan & Parajes, 2004, Gentry & Campbell, Year & Santrock, 2003) All of these risk taking behaviours are the result of the preparation of transition from childhood to adulthood. (Gentry & Campbell, Year) Risk taking in adolescents is an important way that they shape their identities, try out new decision-making skills and make realistic assessment of themselves, other people and the world (Gentry & Campbell, Year). It is also found that significant number adolescents confront mental health problems such as depression, eating disorders, suicides and homicides during this period. (Yoonsun, 2001, Cobb, 2001 Gentry & Campbell, Year & Santrock, 2003, & Urdan & Pajares, 2004)

Problematic behaviours and mental health problems are the result of inappropriate decision making and the lack of coping skills in adolescents to tackle the stresses they confront during the stage of “storm and stress’ (Santrock, 2004). According to Grotberg, (1999) not all the adolescents who face adversity show problematic behaviours or are depressed.

Some youths contrary to becoming affected by the stress or the adversity, show resiliency, which means they are able to thrive successfully in the face of adversity or risk. (Birmingham, 2004) “Resilience is envisioned as an individual ability to bounce back.” (Birmingham, 2004)

Studies have been done over the last two decades to distinguish between the outcomes which are positive from those which are adverse. The factors that bring out a negative outcome are considered as “risk” factors and the factors that buffer these negative outcomes are known as “protective “factors. It is a discredit that unknowingly, schools and other caregivers like parents are increasing the risks rather than the protective factors. (Winfield, 1994) There are preventive intervention measures that are targeted to bring up positive outcomes by identifying and reducing the risk factors and increasing the protective factors that would protect the adolescents from potential missteps. (Cobb, 2001) Making caregivers, especially teachers and parents aware of the risk factors that would disrupt the resilience of the adolescents and how to increase the protective factors that would help them to thrive through their life is important. (Gentry & Campbell, Year & Santrock, 2003) It is very important to help and guide adolescents in this period of turbulence so that they can lead a healthy life as an adult in the future. If correct intervene measures are not taken during this stage the adolescents might end up their whole life in crimes mentioned above.

The study would investigate the risk and protective factors that are present both in schools and families of adolescents, with a special focus on Maldives, specifically on the capital, Male’s’ secondary school population, as it is the densest island in Maldives. The impact of these factors on the adolescents and the relationship between these factors on their resilience also would be examined. Special attention would be given on the identification of knowledge the educators, parents and school leaders have on the psychosocial well- being of the adolescents.

Current Situation in Maldives

“One third of the youth of Maldives wake up in the afternoon around 2.00 pm. Three o’clock they would have coffee, four o’ clock coffee, five o’clock coffee. And the coffee goes on until ten in the night and at ten they would start crimes like stabbing.” (Faseeh, Police Commissioner of Maldives, 2009). There are several problems arising from the youth of the country, especially in the capital, Male’, like stabbing, substance abuse, violence, early sexual involvement and trafficking.

According to the census of Maldives, 2006, out of the total population of the Maldives, which is 298, 968, 76, 903 are people from age 10 to 19. Among the population one-half of them live in the capital city, Male’, which has a total area of only 26.2 square kilometres. The capital Male’ is the densest city in the world. Due to the high population density, there are many challenges faced by the youth of Maldives.

The Police records of 2007 indicate that among adolescents under the age of 18 years, 0.73% has been detained due to various crimes. From which 0.21% are substance abuse cases, 0.20% theft cases, 0.21% due to violence, 0.04% for sexual misconduct, 0.03% for trafficking and 0.07% due to other crimes.

Youth of age 14 -18 are adolescents who are supposed to be studying either in secondary or higher secondary schools. Most of these youth are dropouts from schools or students who are involved in crimes while in school due to various reasons. They are in such a situation because of the inability or lack of skills like decision making, problem solving and communication skills and low confidence in oneself. “Individuals who fail to make the right decisions and are unable to adapt accordingly are more likely to encounter problems” ( Mustafa , 2008, Pg. 113) There could be several problems an individual may face such as family conflicts, bullying in the school, parental divorce, physical or sexual abuse. These problems or factors are considered as risk factors as they lead to negative outcomes in life. Hence, these young people have turn out to be the most vulnerable crowd in the society because they were not able to cope with adverse situation in their life or in other words they are not resilient enough to confront adverse situations in their life. Adolescents cannot “make it” when their development is threatened by such risk factors like negligence, maltreatment, poverty, discrimination, unless they are resilient enough to overcome adverse situations of their lives. However, they can be made resilient by reducing the risk factors and enhancing protective factors both at home and school. Resilience is a term used to the adaptive or the coping abilities individuals have to overcome stressful situations. An important role can be played by parents and teachers in creating a resilient generation who can succeed in spite of serious challenges in life by providing them with protective factors and eliminating or reducing risk factors.

Family is the primary social unit of the children and home is the first institute where they learn most of the values, attitudes and skills. However, some parents are not very educated on proper parenting and as a result parents also create a lot of problems in students’ life which leads to low resiliency. Parent interaction and way of parent disciplining the adolescent influences both the overall emotional health and the academic achievement of the adolescents. (Urdan & Pajares, 2004) Parent-adolescent conflict is another aspect which might have a negative affect on the adolescent. The conflicts could be due to generation gaps or the adolescents not following the values and attitudes that the parents try to instil in them. (Santrock, 2003) Such behaviour by parents somehow leaves a very negative effect on the students.

Adolescents spend most of their time in school other than their home. Schools play an important role in the development of the child and adolescent and the experiences they get may affect them in multiples ways. (Zimmerman & Arunkumar. 1994) The young generations are in the hands of teachers and therefore, the secondary point to bring or create a desirable environment for the positive development of students has to be the schools. “Teachers are in a position not only to educate students but to reach out to help them to make positive connections to their schools and to assist them in creating a safe environment, or at least a perception of one.’ ( Urdan and Pajares, 2004 P. 20) Lindwall, & Caleman (2008) states, “Scholars suggest that schools be structured as communities in an effort to provide a supportive context that can be help to promote the positive development of Youth.” But how supportive the schools are for the students is something that has to be discovered.

Students have to be listened to and their problems have to be the teachers’ concern. But in reality, most of the teachers never get time to listen to the needs or problems of students and students are not seen as individuals with different characteristics, interests and abilities. The teachers’ objective would be to deliver the lesson and assign them with the tasks. When there is no one to attend to their problems or if the students are not able to share their problems with someone, students would face an overload of stress or problems. When there are unsolved problems in their minds there is no way they can fully concentrate and achieve a better result. The effect of so much pressure and stress might lead them to risk taking behaviours as a result of not being able to cope or handle their stress properly. Therefore, teachers have to play an important role in helping students to make sense out of such confusing and potentially dangerous situations and serve as both role model and refuge for the students to come out of situation or face the situation that they might think is beyond their control or comprehension. (Urdan and Pajares, 2004)

Adolescents who are less resilient are more prone to crimes as they are not able to adapt to the life challenges. Hence it is important to enhance adolescents’ resiliency by reducing the risk factors and enhancing the protective factors in schools. To do so it is vital for teachers to be aware of the risk factors that reduces resiliency and the protective factors that enhances resiliency.

Psychological aspect of students is not much taught to teachers when they do their teacher training. Hence, most of the teachers are not aware of the risk factors that lead to students’ low resiliency. Teachers maltreat students in a lot of ways without knowing what the consequence might be. For instant, a lot of teachers use to neglect those students who are quite, misjudging them as less intelligent students or sometimes they consider students who are talkative as naughty students. A lot of teachers tend to label students or sometime discriminate students. However, if the teachers are aware and have the knowledge on the negative effects on the child on such consequence, they would probably treat them well and would be more supportive in the positive development of the students.

According to Zimmerman & Arunkumar (1994), schools are social settings where youth could be given assistance to become resilient and sustain the capacity to face risk. According to them the school is the context within which the children can develop problem solving skills, find social support and experience success. Therefore, educating the teachers and school staff on the positive intervention on student development and behaviours is important. Zimmerman & Arunkumar (1994), states “The school environment has the potential either to increase the children’s risk or protect them from debilitating consequences of other risks.” To further elaborate his point, he has proclaimed that factors like the schools size (large) and schools bond (schools not been committed) have been linked to adolescent drug use.

Family protection and school -based intervention plays an important role in bringing a resilience generation. However, both these institutions need to have ample knowledge on the psycho-social well- being and the factors related to the positive development of the youth today in order to derive a positive result out of them. The knowledge these caregivers acquire would help them to implement appropriate preventive measures by enhancing resiliency in the adolescents.

Problem Statement

Many researches have been done on the factors that contributed to the resiliency of children and adolescents. But there is a gap to be filled, where the outcome of such factors has to be studied in-depth and how much the caregivers are aware of these outcomes caused by the risk and protective factors needs to be analyzed. Most of the time it is only the professionals, like psychologists and researches, who knows about the importance of resiliency. However, there is dearth of research or studies done on the identification of how much parents, teachers or people in charge of the development of the adolescents know about such knowledge. Unless these people are aware, there is not much that can be done to bring a positive outcome as they are the people who are directly involved or in the grassroots level to intervene problematic behaviours in adolescents. They are the people who can enhance protective factors and reduce risk factors in order to bring positive outcomes in the adolescents. If caregivers are not aware of the consequences or the effects of these factors, they might do a lot more harm to the adolescents unknowingly rather than helping the adolescents to come out of the situation. (Winfield, 1994)

There is also lack of research in the psychosocial aspect of adolescents as well as children in the Maldives. Hence, little is known about the determinants and consequences of risk and protective factors of the resiliency of adolescents. Problematic behaviour of adolescents can be addressed and proper intervention techniques could be used, with appropriate assessment of the problems. As an attempt to determine the factors that contributes to problematic behaviours and resiliency of the adolescents studying in the Male’ Schools, it is important to study the risk and protective factors both in schools and homes. Furthermore, gaining an understanding of the relationship between these factors and students coping levels in adverse situations is important for the caregivers in the intervening process in order to mitigate problems faced by adolescents.

Therefore, the purpose of this study is

  • 216 To find out the relationship between students resiliency and risk factors.
  • 216 To find the negative impacts on students and their overall performance due to risk factors in the school and home.
  • 216 To find out the extent to which the secondary schools of Male’ have “protective factors” and “risk factors” that contribute to the enhancement or reduction of resiliency of students.
  • 216 To find out whether teachers and parents are aware that certain behaviors contribute to the reduction and enhancement of students’ resilience.
  • 216 To find out the emotions associated with the risk and protective factors present both in school and home.
  • 216 To find out different ways on how the teachers and parents can acquire knowledge to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors.

Research Questions

The following research questions will guide this study based on the central question of this study, which is “what is the relationship between risk factors and protective factors on adolescents’ resiliency and the impacts students have on these factors for the development of resilience in them?”

  • What are the impacts on students’ resilience due to risk and protective factors in schools and home?
  • To what extent does the secondary schools of Male’ have “protective factors” that contribute to the enhancement of resiliency.
  • To what extent does the secondary schools of Male’ have “risk factors” that contribute to the reduction of resilience of students?
  • 216 Are teachers and parents aware that certain behaviors contribute to the reduction of students’ resiliency?
  • 216 What are the emotions related with the risk and protective factors present in both school and home?
  • 216 How could teachers and parents acquire knowledge to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors?

Significance of the study

The study will help to find some of the risk factors that may lead to low resiliency and the protective factors that enhances resiliency in adolescents. Adolescents are not able to cope with life’s adverse situations when they have a low resiliency. Low resiliency could lead adolescents to a lot of problems in which they are not able to handle properly. As a result, adolescents in secondary schools are likely to go into crimes like stabbing, abusing of drugs and become gangsters.

The study would identify risk and protective factors that contribute to resiliency. As a result the cause effect or correlation of these factors on resiliency can be found. The study can be utilized to enhance students’ resiliency and help them to better perform by reducing the risk factors and increasing the protective factors in schools and homes. This can be done making teachers and parents aware of the consequences of the negative factors in the school and homes. It is important to make teachers and parents aware of the consequences of the risk factors in the adolescents’ life in order to minimize the challenges and problems faced by them and to take correct intervening measures to help them with positive outcome even in adverse situations of their lives.

The result of the study can be used at policy level to include the psychological aspects in teacher training process and the schools to conduct parenting programs as a part of the school programs. The result of the study also could be used to identify the importance of Health Promoting Schools (HPS) so that the negative outcomes can be reduce and promotion of more protective factors could be implemented in the school for the psychosocial well- being of the students.

Limitations

The sample is limited to adolescents of ages from 13 to 17 years as this is the age group studying in secondary grades in the Maldives schools. Early adolescence (11-12 years) and late adolescents (18- 19 years) are not considered in this study because these students don’t fall in the secondary school category

The population is limited to only 8 out of eleven secondary schools of the capital Male’, four of which are government supported schools while the other four are private schools. The other three schools were not chosen purposely as they are private schools that take up only academically competent students.

The study is also limited to the identification of risk factors that are present only at home and schools. This might not give the broad overview of how other factors such as individual and community risk and protective factors have influence on the resilience of the individuals.

Operational Definitions

The terms are restricted to the following definitions in this study

Resilience:

How resilient a person is measured through the scores acquired from the standard resilience scale which is a trademark of Gail M. Wagnild & Heather M. Young. The result obtained by this scale may vary according to the condition of the individual, for instance, if the person is having a bad mood or is severely affected by some adverse situation while taking up the resilience test, the result may show a negative result while on the other hand if the individual is well and is in a very positive mood the result may show more positive outcome.

Protective factors:

characteristics within the context or the environment that mitigates the negative impact of stressful situations and conditions or anything that brings a positive outcome to life during an adverse situation

Risk Factors:

any characteristic of the context or environment that predicts negative outcomes

Adolescent:

students of the ages ranging from 13 to 17 years old.

Chapter 2 Preliminary Literature Review

Adolescence is a very critical stage where lot of development takes place, both physically and mentally. These major changes lead the adolescents into a lot of disturbance and confusion that they might not be able to handle properly, unless they have a very strong inner strength. The inner strength that helps the adolescents to confront the life challenges is called “resilience”. Resilience can be enhanced by increasing protective factors and reducing risk factors that the adolescents face in their lives.

This part of the study develops the theoretical foundation of the relationship between resilience, risk factors and protective factors in school and family, and the impact of these factors on adolescents’ resiliency. First, it reviews the importance of identifying the root causes of problematic behaviours of adolescents and the consequences of such behaviors on adolescents’ development. Secondly, the importance of identifying risk factors and protective factors both in family and schools which contribute to the resiliency of adolescents is reviewed. Lastly, the resiliency models and the importance of enhancing resilience in adolescents are examined.

Adolescence

According to Branwhite (2000) the word adolescent is derived from a Latin word “adolescere”, which means to grow to maturity. It is the developmental stage between childhood and adulthood. They are neither children nor adults. According to Herbert, (1994 cited in Branwhite, 2000) in childhood, the children are entirely dependent on their parent for love, nurturance, and guidance while in adulthood they are required to be independent and care for themselves. In this view, Branwhite concludes that adolescence is a period between dependence and independence that connects childhood and adulthood. “It is a transitional period occurring between dependency of childhood and the responsibilities of adult life”. (Branwhite, 2000)

According to (Lachausse, 2008) “one of the distinct features of adolescence is autonomy.” (P.4) Adolescence is the stage in which adolescents’ search for autonomy. It is the “ability to think, feel, make decisions, and act on her or his own.” (Lachausse, 2008, P.4) Development of autonomy during adolescence lead to several positive attributes in the adulthood such as self- esteem, positive self concept, self motivation and initiations and self regulation. (Lachausse, 2008)

There are several changes that take place in this transitional period, in terms of physical, social, emotional, behavioural and cognitive. (Gentry & Campbell, Year & Santrock, 2003). As these many changes take place, especially due to the rapid physiological changes, the adolescents may confront difficulties in psychological development leading to turbulent behaviour. (Whitebran, 2000) Many developmental psychologists refer this period as “a period of storm and stress to be survived or endured”. (Gentry & Campbell, Year, Arnett, 2007)

Many societies express concern for the development of adolescents because of the belief that these youngsters have a key role to play in the society. (Kim, Lee Yu, Lee and Puiq, 2005) Talking about the adolescents’ role in the society, he further states, “Great expectations are placed upon adolescents’ development in all areas, i.e., intelligence, morality, and physical health.” This is especially true in the 21st century which may be called ‘the information age’ and requires great creativity and inner strength to appropriately address life challenges and overcome adverse circumstances.” (Kim, Lee Yu, Lee and Puiq, 2005, P.143) “Adolescence is frequently described as a period of upheaval and turmoil.” (Yoonsun, 2001, P. 7) The confusion and disturbance which Yoonsun (2001) has mentioned is, due to the major physical and mental changes that take place in adolescents during this period of time. This phase of upheaval and turmoil confronts the adolescents with not only confusion or disturbances but with lots of life barriers and stresses. Stress is a part of our life whether it is a child, student, adolescent or an adult. Adaptation during the early and middle stage of adolescence is challenged by remarkable increase in the development task as well as normative stress. (Hampel, Meier & Kummel, 2007) It is a stage where stress level is increased significantly. (Hampel, Meier & Kummel, 2007) If stresses cannot be handled properly it might lead to psychological disorders such as distress and depression. A study done by (Lewinsohn et al. 1998) shows that about 20% of adolescents experience a major episode of depression by the age eighteen. (Skitch & Abela, 2008) Depressing mental states such as role diffusion and identity confusion lead the adolescents into behavioural problems such as substance abuse, delinquency and violence. (Gentry & Campbell, Year , Yoonusun, 2001, Cobb, 2001 & Urdan & Pajares, 2004)

Appropriate intervention procedures have to be taken in order to prevent our adolescents from going to worse situations. In order to do so, first we need to consider the cause of such situations. According to Yoonsun (2001), there is a growing need to understand the factors that contribute to maladaptive behaviour as well as to understand the mechanisms or factors that buffer or reduce risks that are faced by adolescents. First, we need to have a look on the possible causes of problematic behaviour in adolescents in order to understand the factors that contribute to the maladaptive behaviour. According to Blos (1962), opposition, rebellious, recessive and experimental behaviours are results of the physical and sexual development of the adolescents. (Yoonsun, 2001) Erikson as cited in Yoonsun (2001) states, “Identity confusion is the reason for youth problem behaviours.” According to Erikson, to avoid role diffusion and identity confusion, one must explore and acquire identity by continued individual efforts. “Risk is an essential tool in the formation of identity as the adolescent “tries on” different identities.” (Erikson, 1968 cited in Ahern, 2007) Hence, from the studies it is found that adolescents’ maladaptive behaviours are portrayed to reveal their struggle for the exploration of an identity all the way through this difficult stage of their development.

There are several intervene measures that can be taken to prevent the maladaptive behavior in adolescents. One of the ways is to develop a better inner resource or in other words enhance resilience of the adolescents. Growing evidence suggests that internal resources, such as coping, self-efficacy and recovery competence are important factors for a healthy development. (Hampel, Meier & Kummel, 2007) It is found that during this struggle of finding an identity, those who have better inner resources are more successful in their life. Family in which the adolescents grow and the school’s community can play a major role in bringing a positive outcome by supporting and guiding them on the journey to the adulthood.

There are factors that place the adolescents at a greater risk while there are factors that protect them from developing problems. (Gentry & Campbell, Year) In order to nurture the adolescents with positive developmental outcomes, caregivers, especially, parents and teachers have to find the risk factors that might inhibit their development and protective factors that would help them to develop to their full potential. There are several factors that differentiate between the positive developmental outcomes from those with adverse outcomes. (Yoonsun, 2001) According to Bonfenbrenner, 1976 (cited inYoonsun, 2001); development is embedded through behaviour in a particular environment. In keeping with his view, Yoonsun (2001) states, “Both risk and protective factors reside in a range of socializing domains, including the family, community, and institutions, as well as within the individual themselves.” (P. 13) Although there are risk and protective factors in different contexts such as individual and community, in this study the main focus would be on two of the main components that the literature states which is the family and the school environment of the adolescents.

Risk Factors

“The term risk factor refers to any characteristic of a group that predicts negative outcomes. In other words, a risk factor indicates that there is an elevated probability of an outcome viewed as undesirable.” (Riley & Masten, pg 14) Factors that are related with greater possibilities for problematic behaviours and have an increased likelihood of poor outcomes are called “risk” factors. (Yoonsun, 2001 & Urdan & Pajares, 2004) Gewirtz and Elderson (2007) further elaborate risk factors as those which are associated with higher probability of poor physical, emotional and behavioural outcomes. Some studies have more specifically defined what risk factors are. (Marazek et al., 1994, P127 cited in Yoonsun, 2001 Pg, 13) defined risk factors as “those characteristics, variables, or hazards that, if present for a given individual, make it more likely that this individual, rather than someone selected at random from the general population, will develop a disorder”. A child with the presence of risk factors would face more difficulty than a group of children without them. (Kraemer., at el., 1997 cited in Carbonell, Reinherz & Giaconia1998, pg 252) According to studies, risk factors have cumulative and diverse disorders and problems. (Yoonsun, 2001) The main forces behind adolescents’ delinquency are personal, domestic and environmental risk factors. (Kim, Lee Yu, Lee and Puiq, 2005)

Family risk Factors

There are many family risk factors that could lead the adolescents into emotional, physical or behavioural problems. Birmingham (2004) states “family risk factors include poverty, parental psychopathology, and exposure to violence/ abuse, separation from parent, exposure to life stress, having teenage mother, and having a large family.” (P. 28) Reis, Clobert, and Herbert (2005) have identified several family risk factors that were experienced by underachieving students. They include poor parental monitoring, family dysfunction and conflict, sibling problems and rivalry, inconsistent role models and value system, insecure attachment and inappropriate parental expectation. In addition, according to Phillip (1996) factors such as death, divorce and unemployment are also serious risk factors to family life. According to him, these are evolving natures of families that compound problems in adolescents’ lives. Birmingham (2004) identifies six distinct family risk factors. They are ‘children placed at foster homes, maternal psychiatric disorder, paternal criminality, severe marital discord, large family overcrowding and low socio-economic status. According to him, the presence of one risk factor may not increase the likelihood of having a psychiatric disorder. However, as the risk factors increase there is an increase in the risk of having a psychiatric disorder in the children. (Birmingham, 2004)

Large family overcrowding and low socio-economic status

Large family overcrowding

Several studies show that there is a strong relationship between family income and

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