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A Risk and Resilience Framework for Understanding and Enhancing the Lives of Young People Living in Foster Care Bob Flynn School of Psychology & Centre.

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Presentation on theme: "A Risk and Resilience Framework for Understanding and Enhancing the Lives of Young People Living in Foster Care Bob Flynn School of Psychology & Centre."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Risk and Resilience Framework for Understanding and Enhancing the Lives of Young People Living in Foster Care Bob Flynn School of Psychology & Centre for Research on Educational & Community Services University of Ottawa

2 Outline What is resilience in children & youth? What protective factors have been found to promote resilience in children & youth? Some findings in our Ontario Looking After Children (OnLAC) project Conclusion: What would a resilience framework for policy and practice look like for young people living in foster care?

3 What is resilience in children & youth?

4 Brief history & definition of resilience Beginning in 1970s, researchers noted that some children at high risk for problems and psychopathology were developing quite well. “First-generation” resilience researchers: Anthony (1974), Garmezy (1971, 1974), Murphy (1974), Rutter (1979), Werner & Smith (1982). Definition of resilience: “Good outcomes in spite of serious threats to adaptation or development” (Masten, 2001). For a child to be defined as resilient, 2 key criteria need to be satisfied: Positive adaptation, including development of competence Significant risk or adversity

5 Usual criteria for defining positive adaptation in studies of resilience Presence of positive behaviour (e.g., academic achievement, happiness, life satisfaction) More specifically, success in meeting age- related expectations or standards of behaviour known as developmental tasks Absence of undesirable behaviour (e.g., serious emotional distress, criminal behaviour)

6 Usual criteria for defining good adaptation in studies of resilience (continued) Good external adaptation (e.g., gaining occupational skills) Good internal adaptation (e.g., psychological well-being) Functioning in normal range (“doing OK or better”), rather than excelling Multiple outcome domains (rather than a single domain)

7 Typical measures of good outcome in resilience studies Academic achievement (e.g., grades, test scores, staying in school, graduating from high school) Conduct (rule-abiding vs. anti-social behaviour) Peer acceptance & friendship Normative mental health (few symptoms of internalizing or externalizing behaviour) Involvement in age-appropriate healthy activities (e.g., extracurricular activities, sports, community service)

8 Defining serious threats to good adaptation Individual risk factors: E.g., premature birth, divorce, maltreatment, motherhood in unwed teenagers, parental psychopathology, poverty, homelessness Cumulative risk indices: Cumulative risk scores Stressful life experience scores

9 What protective factors have been found to promote resilience in children and youth?

10 Protective factors promoting resilience in children & youth (Masten) Within the child: Good cognitive abilities, including problem-solving & attentional skills Easy temperament, adaptable personality Positive self-perception & self-efficacy Faith & a sense of meaning in life Positive outlook on life Good self-regulation of emotional arousal & impulses Talents valued by self & society Good sense of humour General appeal or attractiveness to others

11 Protective factors promoting resilience in children & youth (cont’d) Within the family: Close relationships with caregiving adults Authoritative parenting (i.e., high warmth/responsiveness & monitoring/supervision) Positive family climate, including low discord between parents Organized home environment Postsecondary education of parents Parents with protective qualities listed above Parents’ involvement in child’s education Socioeconomic advantages

12 Protective factors promoting resilience in children & youth (cont’d) Within interpersonal environment (within or outside family): Close relationships to competent, prosocial, & supportive adults Connections to prosocial & rule-abiding peers

13 Protective factors promoting resilience in children & youth Within the community: Effective schools Ties to prosocial organizations (schools, clubs, church groups, scouting, etc.) Neighbourhoods with high « collective efficacy » High levels of public safety Good emergency social services (e.g., 911, child protection) Good public health & health-care services

14 Basic human adaptational systems that underlie protective factors and explain why resilience is relatively frequent (Masten, 2001) Resilience is the product of ordinary, basic human adaptive processes & assets, namely: Brain development Cognition Attachment relationships & parenting Regulation of emotion & behaviour Motivation for learning & engaging in the environment Formal educational systems, cultural belief systems, & religious organizations

15 Major lessons from Emmy Werner’s Kauai longitudinal study The great importance of early childhood in laying the foundation for resilience, as well as The “opening of opportunities” in the 20s and 30s that led to “turning points” and positive shifts in life trajectories: Continuing education at community colleges Educational and vocational skills in armed forces Marriage to a stable partner Conversion to a religion involving active participation in a “community of faith” Recovery from a life-threatening illness or accident Most attributed their good outcomes to informal help (from spouses, friends, extended family, teachers, etc.) rather than to formal help (from mental health professionals)

16 Some findings on resilience in our Ontario Looking After Children (OnLAC) project

17 Seven developmental outcome dimensions of Looking After Children Health Education Identity Family and social relationships Self-presentation Emotional & behavioural development Self-care skills

18 Looking After Children’s role in increasing resilience: (1) Providing assets to offset risk factors Asset (e.g., tutoring) Risk (e.g., severe poverty of birth family Positive outcome (e.g., child’s success in school) + -

19 Looking After Children’s role in increasing resilience: (2) Improving mediators, to augment protective effects of assets & lessen negative effects of risks Asset (e.g., Scouts or Guides) Risk (e.g., abusive birth parents) Mediator (e.g., foster Parenting) Positive outcome (e.g., child’s good self-esteem) + - +

20 Looking After Children’s role in increasing resilience: (3) Emphasizing natural risk buffers and improving effectiveness of risk-activated buffers Natural buffer (e.g., child’s pleasing personality) Risk (e.g., violence in birth family) Outcome (e.g., child’s good social interactions) Risk-activated buffer (e.g., effective social work intervention)

21 ILLUSTRATIVE RESILIENCE- RELATED OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTHS AGED 10-15

22 Comparisons on key Looking After Children developmental dimensions Comparisons between: Non-random sample of 340 young people aged in care of Ontario CASs, and Random sample of young people aged from general Canadian population (i.e., from NLSCY)

23 Injuries in last 12 months? (ages 10-15)

24 Overnight hospitalization in last 12 months? (ages 10-15)

25 Rating of academic achievement, in reading, math & overall? (ages 10-15) (Thirds are based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note. Top third experience better academic achievement

26 Has child/youth ever repeated a grade at school (including kindergarten)? (ages 10-15)

27 Does child/youth receive special or resource help at school? (a ges 10-15)

28 General self-esteem (ages 10-15) (thirds based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note. Top third report higher levels of general self-esteem.

29 Happiness & optimism about future (ages 10-15) (thirds based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note. Top third report higher levels of happiness & optimism.

30 Peer relationships (ages 10-15) (thirds based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note: Top third experiences higher levels of positive relationships.

31 Getting along with (foster) mother (ages 10-15) ( thirds based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note: Top third reports higher levels of getting along with (foster) mother.

32 Level of pro-social behaviour (ages 10-15) (thirds based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note: Top third reported higher levels of pro-social behaviour.

33 Level of anxiety/emotional distress (ages 10-15) (thirds based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note: Top third reported lower levels of anxiety/emotional distress

34 Level of physical aggression (ages 10-15) (thirds based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note: 2nd half reported lower levels of aggressiion.

35 Level of indirect (relational) aggression (ages 10-15) (thirds based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note: Top third reported lower levels of indirect aggression.

36 Level of hyperactivity/inattention (ages 10-15, yr 1) (thirds based on Canadian [NLSCY] norms) Note: Top third reported lower levels of hyperactivity.

37 Conclusion: What would a resilience framework for foster-care policy & practice look like? (Masten & Powell, 2003) Mission: Frame goals in positive terms Promote competence Shift developmental course in more positive direction Models: Include positive predictors and outcomes in models of change Competence/health, as well as problems Developmental tasks Assets as well as risk factors Protective factors as well as vulnerabilities

38 Examples of strategies for promoting resilience in children and youth (Masten & Reed, 2002) Risk-focused strategies: Preventing (or reducing) risk and stressors Prevent low birth weight through prenatal care Prevent child abuse or neglect through parent education Reduce teenage binge drinking or drug use through prevention science (e.g., Communities That Care) Prevent homelessness through housing policy or emergency assistance

39 Examples of strategies for promoting resilience in children and youth (continued) Asset-focused strategies: Improving number or quality of developmental assets/community resources Provide tutors for school work Organize a Girls or Boys Club Offer parent education classes Build a recreation centre

40 Examples of strategies for promoting resilience in children and youth (continued) Process-focused strategies: Mobilizing the power of human adaptational systems: e.g., Build self-efficacy through graduated success model of teaching Teach effective coping strategies (e.g., pre-surgery) Foster secure attachments through home-visiting programs for new parents Nurture mentoring relationships (e.g., Big Brothers/Big Sisters) Encourage participation of children with prosocial peers in healthy out-of-school-time activities Support cultural traditions that encourage children to bond with prosocial adults (e.g., religious education; classes where elders teach Aboriginal traditions of dance)

41 Some resources on resilience, including applications in child welfare Flynn, R. J., Dudding, P. M., & Barber, J. G. (Eds). (2006). Promoting resilience in child welfare. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Masten, Ann. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, vol. 56, No. 3, pp Masten, Ann S., & Reed, Marie-Gabrielle J. (2002). Resilience in development. Pp in C. R. Snyder & Shane J. Lopez (Editors), Handbook of positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. Masten, Ann S., & Powell, Jennifer L. (2003). A resilience framework for research, policy, and practice. Pp in Suniya S. Luthar (Editor), Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


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