A comprehensive model for promoting resiliency and preventing violence in schools.
Schools are viewed as the main gate to our society, where most of our social norms are taught and reinforced. For this reason, the federal government and other public health officials have turned to public schools to facilitate the implementation of violence prevention programs and efforts [Department of Human Health Services (DHHS), 2001; O'Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009]. Data obtained by NCSE for the 2005-2006 school year shows that 87% of public schools are indeed implementing some type of violence prevention program (NCES, 2006), most of which seem to focus on teaching basic social skills and behavioral norms. However, based on the national data presented by the NCES between 2000 and 2010, these programs are not necessarily yielding the desired outcomes (i.e., violence-free schools). The information provided in the NCES and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) websites suggests that most of the programs currently employed in schools are narrowly focused, as they only seem to intervene on the target child's individual problem behaviors. What is lacking from school-based prevention programs? What else needs to be done to reduce negative outcomes for students?
Focusing on teaching basic behavioral norms and social skills (e.g., basic problem solving, empathy training, and anger management strategies) is not enough for children who are at risk for violent and/ or maladaptive behaviors. Although the content covered in these preventive programs is important, it is narrowly focused as it does not always provide children with comprehensive mechanisms for coping with adverse situations and environments (Hahn, Hall, Rayens, Myers, & Bonnel, 2007; Kratochwill, McDonald, Levin, Scale, Coover, 2009; Nation, Crusto, Wandersman, et al., 2003). Figure 1 illustrates the current narrow-based model that aims to reduce violent or maladaptive behaviors. Comprehensive programs that target all essential individual and contextual factors are primordial in the reduction of problem behavior, and resiliency building of aggressive at-risk children (Lochman & Wells, 2003; Walker, Stiller, Severson, Feil, & Golly, 1998). For the purpose of this study, "comprehensive/ecological programs" are defined as those school-based interventions that target multiple systems within a child's life (i.e. self, family, peers, teachers, community, etc.). The following section provides an overview of the current literature that supports the conceptualization of resiliency building as a comprehensive/ ecological construct.
Resiliency as a Comprehensive/Ecological Construct
Masten (2001) and Doll, Zucker, and Brehm (2004) are among the researchers who have defined resiliency as an ecological construct. They have stated that a child's environment (i.e., parents, teachers, community members, and peers) is heavily responsible for teaching him/her to be resilient and cope with adverse situations. Based on this theory, children cannot be expected to become resilient by just teaching them a few skills such as self-efficacy and basic social skills/norms. A more comprehensive approach is needed if students are to successfully demonstrate adaptive coping and social-emotional success in today's society.
Based on the idea that resiliency is fostered by one's environment, we propose a comprehensive and ecological model for resiliency building. The proposed model is composed of eight dimensions, with the first one focusing on developing strong/positive self-efficacy skills, the second one of peer relationships, and the remaining six on family relationships, family belonging, school relationships, school belonging, community relationships, and community /belonging (see Figure 2). This model is also informed by Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological model for human development and Sameroff's (2000) Transactional model. Our model illustrates how these dimensions, besides being indicators of resiliency, also serve as preventative predictors of violent and maladaptive behaviors. The following section describes the literature that supports the inclusion of each of these dimensions into our proposed model for resiliency building.
Self-Efficacy, or the ability to believe that one can carry out a particular behavior (Bandura, 1977), has been widely studied as an indicator of resiliency. Research has shown that children who are resilient display behaviors related to self-efficacy such as flexibility, high self-esteem, self-motivation, independence, positive outlook, ability to learn, sense of competence, humor, problem solving skills, emotional stability, decision making skills, social competence, sense of control of one's future, religion, and service mindedness, all of which are related to resiliency (Edwards et al., 2007; Evans et al., 2010; Henderson & Milstein, 1998; Hjemdal, Fribory, Stiles, Martinussen, & Rosenvinge, 2006). As it could be imagined, this construct strongly predicts the ability of a child to make the best of his/her environment by accessing his/her own cognitive, behavioral, and contextual resources to engage in pro-social behaviors that can help him/her overcome a stressful situation.
Peer relationships, or the time spent communicating and interacting with same-age peers (Mikami, Szwedo, Allen, Evans, & Hare, 2010), has also been identified as a strong predictor of resiliency. This construct has been widely targeted in school-based programs through social skills and peer mentoring interventions (NCES, 2006). Being well accepted by peers, and having positive interactions and peers that engage in positive activities have been identified as indicators of resiliency (Benzies & Mychasiuk, 2009; Kauffman, Grunebaum, Cohler, & Gamer, 1979). Given that children spend a considerable amount of time socializing with their peers, and are constantly looking for their approval, the type of relationships they have with their peers are perceived to be extremely valuable in their development and acquisition of resiliency skills (Parsai, Voisine, Marsiglia, Kulis, & Nieri, 2008). Therefore, it is believed that schools that promote pro-social peer relationships will see a lower number of violent behaviors in schools.
Family relationships are often defined as both the parent/caregiver-child relationship and general relationships/positive frequent interactions within the family (Benzies & Mychasiuk, 2009; Evans et al., 2010; Garza, Reyes, & Trueba, 2004). Research has shown that family relationships often function as a protective factor for youth (Fergusson & Lynskey, 1996; Perkins & Jones, 2004; Waller et al., 2003). In terms of the parent-child relationship, positive parental monitoring, parent-child communication, and parent-child attachment have been associated with increased adaptive behavior in adolescents (Fergusson & Lynskey, 1996; Marsiglia, 2002; Perkins & Jones, 2004). Teaching children the value of having an open communication and relationship with a family member could positively impact the resiliency skills of the most at-risk children (Masten, 2001). Lochman and Wells (2004) found that parents that received a school-based training on how to establish a better relationship with their aggressive children had better outcomes than participants whose parents did not receive such training.
Family belonging, for the purpose of this study, is defined as feeling part of the entire family system. Although some children may have a strong connection with a particular family member, they might not feel part of the entire family system due to certain family conflicts. Increased levels of family support, cohesion, affect, bonding, stability, and routines have been associated with increased adaptive behavior in adolescents (Benzies & Mychasiuk, 2009; Fergusson & Lynskey, 1996; Grossman et al., 1992; Perkins & Jones, 2004). Teaching children and families the importance of sense of belonging could be a valuable step toward building healthy families that could more effectively promote resiliency in children. Therefore, it is theorized that having a strong bond with family members will increase a child's likelihood to seek support from that individual when needed.
School relationships, for the purposes of this study, is defined as the perceived support from at least one school staff member. Research has suggested that perceived support from school staff is one of the most important environmental factors associated with school connectedness or school belonging (Blum & Libbey, 2004) and contributes to decreased engagement in risky behaviors (McNeely & Falci, 2004). Strong/positive school relationships have been shown to serve as a protective factor that fosters resiliency in at-risk youth (Bernard, 1992; Garbarino, 1995; Watkins, 2002). Although much of the literature on school relationships centers around student and teacher relationships it is important to note that other members of the school community, such as bus drivers, office staff, and janitors, can also be just as influential in promoting resiliency (Reed-Victor & Pelco, 1999). When students are aware that teachers or other school staff offer attention to them, show interest, provide emotional support, and devote time, students feel supported and are more likely to be actively, and pro-socially, engaged in school (CDC, 2009). Many schools are in fact now assigning a staff member as a "mentor" to students at-risk in order to promote resiliency in those students (NCES, 2006).
School belonging, often labeled as school connectedness, is characterized by academic engagement, having a sense of belonging, fairness in discipline practices, participation in extracurricular activities, liking school, having a student voice, positive peer relationships, feeling safe, and perceiving that teachers are supportive and caring (CDC, 2009; Klem & Connell, 2004; Libbey, 2004). Research has shown that higher feelings of school belonging contribute to higher academic performance, reduced maladaptive/risky behaviors including substance use (Bernat & Resnick, 2009; CDC, 2009; Goodenow, 1993; Hawkins et al, 1992), and stronger emotional self-regulation (Resnick, Bearman, & Blum, 1997). Schools could easily promote a higher sense of school belonging by establishing ways students can get more involved in extracurricular activities (Brown & Evans, 2002). This will not only allow students to feel a higher sense of belonging but will also provide them with access to other school staff and peers that can serve as resources for coping with adverse situations.
Community relationships are defined as the support a child perceives from an individual outside his/ her family and/or school (Benzies & Mychasiuk, 2009; Evans et al., 2010; Garza et al., 2004; Henderson & Milstein, 1998). Community members may include, but not limited to: ministers, teachers, and neighbors (Werner, 1993) who form a supportive network by providing physical, financial, emotional, spiritual, and social supports (Kelly, Berman-Rossi, & Palombo, 2001). Characteristics of community relationships that foster resiliency include trust, warmth, care, and high standards (Krovetz, 1999; Werner, 1993). Studies have shown that having a supportive relationship with a community member has served as a protective factor for members of various ethnic groups (Henderson & Milstein, 1998; Perkins & Jones, 2004; Werner, 1993). Schools can serve as facilitators of community relationships by connecting families of at-risk children with local community agencies that can provide mentoring services.
Community belonging is the final component of the proposed model of resiliency. Although various studies have examined community relationships, there is limited research in the area of community belonging. While a clear definition of community belonging is still developing in the literature, it could be defined as a sense of membership toward a group (Sherrod, Flanagan, & Youniss, 2002). Some examples of community belonging include continuous opportunities for participation within a society, community service, and social responsibility (Evans et al., 2010; Krovetz, 1999; Sherrod et al., 2002). Researchers identified community involvement, a characteristic of community belonging, as a strong predictor of resiliency (Benzies & Mychasiuk, 2009). Many at-risk children, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds, have reported feeling alienated from their communities. Being alienated from one's social world and networks has a negative impact in children's resiliency and ability to thrive (Olsen, 1997). Schools could collaborate with local agencies to make sure that after school programs, extracurricular activities, and other needed services (e.g., sexual education) are available to students.
The factors previously discussed are clearly vital indicators and promoters of resiliency. The authors theorized that students who have access and opportunities for building strong connections to individuals, groups, and communities will be less likely to engage in violent and maladaptive behaviors. The remaining sections of this paper summarize the procedures followed to provide empirical validation for the ecological resiliency model described above.
Secondary data analyses were conducted using the database from the California Healthy Kids Survey 2007-2009 to answer the following research questions: (1) Which model better defines resiliency, our proposed comprehensive model or the one most often implemented in schools?; (2) Which model better prevents maladaptive behavior in children? Figure 1 illustrates the traditional/current model often used in school-based interventions, which is perceived to only focus on improving self-efficacy and peer relationships. Figure 2 illustrates the comprehensive model of resiliency building.
Secondary data analysis was used for this study. All the responses analyzed came from students who answered the Resilience and Youth Development Module (RYDM) subscale and selected items of antisocial behavior (e.g. reports of using drugs, getting into a physical fight, getting in trouble with the law, getting in trouble in school, etc) of the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS). The data was collected by the California Department of Education via West Ed, in the 2005 through 2007 academic school years and included 667,610 cases. All local education agencies that receive Title IV funds are mandated to administer the CHKS at least once every two years. Furthermore, the CHKS meets the student data collection requirements in No Child Left Behind (NCLB). All participating schools were required to obtain either active or passive parental consent and inform parents and students that participation was voluntary. The comprehensive CHKS examines students' self-reports of resiliency, drug and substance use, antisocial behavior, victimization, and other social/health problems students might experience.
The entire CHKS sample from the 2005 and 2007 school years were used for this study. The sample consisted of 667,610 adolescents in grades 7, 9, and 11. All students were from California secondary schools, including nontraditional, alternative, and continuation schools. Specifically, 36.5% were in 7th grade, 32.8% were in 9th grade, 26.8% were in 11th grade, and 3.9% were enrolled in continuation schools. Furthermore, 66% of the sample identified themselves as ethnic minorities. Specifically, the ethnicities identified were Caucasian (26.8%, n=177,670), Hispanic (35.5%, n=235,261), African American (4.8%, n=31,802), Asian (12%, n=79,489), Native Americans (1.3%, n=8,560), Mixed (12.1%, n=79,940), and Other (7.5%, n=49,779). Data from participants who reported to be of mixed or other ethnic background were excluded from the current study's data analysis.
Permission to utilize this database was obtained by the first author from WestEd. According to WestEd, which was contracted to oversee the collection of these data, all participating school districts were responsible for training staff, obtaining parental consent, and administrating the survey. Data collected from each district were entered and initially analyzed by WestEd researchers, and then synthesized into reports for school districts and the public. The authors of the current study received permission from WestEd to analyze the raw data.
The CHKS is an anonymous and confidential self-report survey on risky social, behavioral, and health behaviors and resiliency administered to students in grades 4 through 12. The CHKS is supported by WestEd and Duerr Evaluation Resources and is funded by the California Department of Education (CDE). The CHKS was developed with the assistance of an expert panel of researchers, prevention practitioners, health experts, policy makers, and school community members. Items from the state-mandated California Student Survey as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey were incorporated into the CHKS. Other items were included based on recommendations from the expert panel and CHKS advisory committee as well, for the purposes of adequately assessing areas that were required by NCLB. CHKS's data-based process allows schools to utilize the results to obtain grant funding for intervention programs, professional development training for staff, communication with community based programs and parents on student progress and outcomes, and to self-evaluate districts and sites.
There are two versions of the CHKS. The first version is for grades 4 through 6 and the second version is for grades 7 through 12. The current study examined data from grades 7 through 12. The CHKS is comprised of the Required Core Module (which collects a general assessment of health risks) and the Resilience and Youth Development Module (RYDM) (which measures positive environmental and internal assets such as meaningful and pro-social bonding to community, school, family, and peers, as well as, self-efficacy and problem-solving skills) [Hanson & Kim, 2007]. A 5-point Likert scale is used in the RYDM subscale. Only 47 of the 56 RYMD items were used for our analysis. Only items described one of the factors of the proposed model, and were not repetitive, were utilized for the final analysis. Cronbach's alpha for the overall sample on the 47 items used for this study was .95. Table 1 provides example items for each of the eight proposed dimensions.
The present analysis used a structural equation modeling approach. Specifically, we compared two structural regression models: (1) Figure 1 depicts the school's traditional/narrowly focused model that has been widely used in contemporary school interventions and (2) Figure 2 depicts the proposed comprehensive/ecological model of resiliency and violent/maladaptive behavior. The measurement portion of the models included the latent variables resiliency and violent/maladaptive behaviors. As previously described, in the comprehensive/ecological model, resiliency was measured with eight indicators including school belonging, school relationships, community belonging, community relationships, family belonging, family relationships, and peer relationships. Violent/Maladaptive behavior was measured using four indicators including risky sexual behaviors, drug use, aggression, and delinquent behavior. The structural portion of the models proposed that resiliency negatively predicted (i.e., protected against) violent/maladaptive behavior.
To evaluate model fit, four indices were used including the chi-squared goodness of fit test, the comparative fit index (CFI), the root-mean-square error of approximation (RMSEA), and the Akaike information criterion (AIC). To support model fit, the following is needed: 1) a non-significant chi-squared goodness of fit value, 2) a CFI>.90, 3) an RMSEA below 0.05 with the left endpoint of its 90% confidence interval being less than 0.05, and 4) a low value on the AIC. Models with higher CFI values are better than models with lower CFI values. Moreover, models with lower RMSEA and AIC values are better than models with higher RMSEA and AIC values. The chi-squared was not used for the present analysis because it is extremely sensitive to sample size (Raykov & Marcoulides, 2006).
Table 2 shows the results from the proposed model and the school's traditional/current model, respectively. The proposed model yielded a CFI=.75, an RMSEA=.18 (.17; .18), and an AIC=33298715.15. The traditional school's model yielded a CFI=.25, RMSEA=.29 (.29; .29), and an AIC=35099827.91. Based on the guidelines outlined above, the fit of the proposed model deteriorated when using the school's traditional model of resiliency and violent/maladaptive behavior. Although the proposed model does not adhere strictly to the guidelines outlined above, the large sample size compensates for the slightly lower values. For example, the RMSEA value (.18) indicates that 82% of the variance is explained in 524,322 students. The analysis suggests that the proposed comprehensive and ecological model is a better model of resiliency and antisocial behavior for the entire sample.
The main purpose of this study was to validate the proposed comprehensive/ecological model for resiliency building and prevention of violent and maladaptive behavior. The present analysis revealed that the traditional/current approach most schools employ for resiliency building and violence prevention is not as effective as a comprehensive/ecological model at defining resiliency and preventing violent/ maladaptive behaviors. The results of our analysis suggest that schools should adopt a comprehensive and ecological approach that focuses on strengthening students' self-efficacy, relationships, and sense of belonging at school, at home, and in the their communities.
The comprehensive and ecological approach we proposed, and validated in this study, is consistent with the current literature that documents the importance of the self, family, school, community, and peers in the development of resiliency (Short & Russell-Mayhew, 2009). According to Brooks (2006), risk and protective factors can be identified at each level of a child's ecology (e.g., home, community, and school); therefore, a promising program should address each of those systems in a comprehensive manner. In order to achieve the proposed outreach to children and their surroundings, collaboration across ecologies/systems is essential. Although the current literature already suggests the need for home-school collaboration in resiliency building programming, very few schools are able to implement successful home-school collaboration programs. Many times schools report trying to establish programs but that the parents who need it the most are often unavailable, unreachable, or just unengaged (Bemak & Cornely, 2002). For instances like these, schools could benefit greatly from their community agencies/ organizations that might already have strong ties with families and parents and have the resources to meet their needs (Elizondo, Feske, Edgull, & Walsh, 2003). Many times the parents are unavailable because they are marginalized from their communities (i.e., are unemployed, do not speak English, do not have access to health care, unfamiliar with mainstream culture, etc). Accessing extra support from their communities through direct school referrals would not only make parents more available to schools but also more trusting. Communities are great venues for building an alliance with families and parents (Evans et al., 2010).
According to the results of our study, schools should continue to enhance students' self-efficacy by focusing on teaching students social-emotional learning skills, or using programs that focus on self-awareness and self-esteem building (Frey, Nolen, Edstron, & Hirschsten, 2005); in addition to focusing on family/school partnerships [i.e., family belonging and family relationships (Christenson & Sheridan, 2001)] in teaching parents how to increase involvement in the social-emotional, behavioral, and academic development of their child.
Schools should make considerable efforts into making sure their students feel a strong sense of school belonging and have positive relationships with different adults within their building. Re-structuring of extracurricular activities, instituting other after school programs, and. implement check-in and check-out systems where at-risk youth could check in every morning to be reminded of goals and check out every day to celebrate success or re-direct for the following day. All of these programs can be adapted to ensure they promote these two factors. In order to promote community belonging and community relationships, schools should work on establishing strong collaborations with local agencies that might also be working on providing services for at-risk students such as the Boy and Girls club, Boys and Girls Scouts, YMCA, or Big Brothers/Sisters.
School administrators considering transitioning from a traditional model to a comprehensive/ ecological model are encouraged to utilize their school psychologists as leaders for such transition. School psychologists are trained on ecological developmental theories, social-emotional and behavioral interventions. This knowledge in addition to their consultation skills enables them to provide direct services to students and families. School psychologists could also train and consult with teachers and other educators to facilitate these efforts.
LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH
Although there were important findings in this study, several limitations were identified. First, the data analyzed were not collected by the authors, but retrieved from WestEd which forced us to make the existing items fit our proposed model/theory. Second, only youth self-report was used to test our proposed model. Youth self-report could be considered a limitation because many children have been found to provide inaccurate/unreliable reports of their antisocial behavior (Merrell, 2008). Third, the present study only addressed negative social behavioral outcomes (i.e., violent/maladaptive behaviors). Future research should examine the relationship between resiliency and negative social-emotional (i.e, depression and anxiety) outcomes. The small number of schools that administered the social-emotional items (such as reports of depression and victimization) limited our ability to include social-emotional issues in our model. Future research should also focus on examining the fit of the proposed model across members of different ethnic groups.
The present study shows the importance for implementing a comprehensive/ecological approach for resiliency building. Our results show that ecologically focused resiliency building programs will be more effective at promoting resiliency and preventing violent/maladaptive behaviors. Schools must continue in supporting the self and peer relations through the implementation of social-emotional learning or social skills programs, but must also get creative in ensuring that they promote strong family, school, and community relationships. These relationships must make each child feel that he/she belong to such networks and have many individuals who will help him/her to overcome social problems. The efforts schools must make to be more efficient at promoting resiliency among our youth is immense, but the promise of a more resilient/violence free society will make it all worth it.
Authors' note. * The last three authors are listed in alphabetical order indicating equal contributions to this manuscript. All authors would like to express our most sincere gratitude to Dr. George Marcoulides for the valuable guidance and feedback he provided during each step of this study. We would also like to thank Dr. Misaki Natsuaki for her comments on this article.
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Sara Maria Castro-Olivo
University of California, Riverside
Oanh Kim Tran
California State University, East Bay
Gazi Ferdousi Begum, Elizabeth Michelle Arellano, Nicole Marie Garcia, and Catherine Yang Tung *
University of California, Riverside
Send correspondence to: Sara Castro-Olivo, PhD, NCSP; Assistant Professor; School Psychology Program, Graduate School of Education; University of California, Riverside, 900 University Street, Riverside, CA 92521, (951) 827-2299. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Sara Maria Castro-Olivo is an assistant professor in the school psychology program at the University of California, Riverside. Her research focuses on the development, validation, and effective implementation of culturally responsive socio-emotional and behavioral interventions for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse students and families.
Dr. Oanh Kim Tran is an assistant professor in the educational psychology program at the California State University, East Bay. Her research focuses on the promotion of social-emotional learning in school settings, response to intervention, and consultation.
Gazi Ferdousi Begum, is a doctoral candidate in the school psychology program at the University of California, Riverside. She is currently a pre-doctoral intern at Columbia University. She is interested in investigating parent-teacher connectedness in order to effectively implement and sustain interventions in school-based settings. Elizabeth Michelle Arellano, Nicole Marie Garcia, and Catherine Yang Tung are all doctoral students in the school psychology program at University of California, Riverside.
TABLE 1. Sample items in proposed factors Sample items Self-efficacy "I know where to go for help with a problem," " I can do most things if I try" Peer relationships "I have a friend my age who talks to me about my problems," "I have a friend my age who cares about me" Family relationships "a parent or adult in my home talks to me about my problems," "a parent or adult in my home believes I will be a success" Family belonging "at home, I do fun things or go fun places with my parents or other adults," "at home I help make decisions" School relationships "at my school there is a teacher or adult who really cares about me," "at school there is a teacher or adult who notices when I'm not there" School Belonging "I feel close to people at this school," "I feel part of this school" Community relationship "there's an adult outside my home or school who really cares about me," "there is an adult outside my home or school who notices when I'm upset about something" Community belonging "I am part of clubs, sport teams, church/ temple, or other group outside of my home or school," "I help other people outside my home and school" TABLE 2. Fit Indices for Proposed Model of Resiliency and Antisocial Behaviors Index Proposed Model School's Model CFI .75 .25 RMSEA .18 .29 RMSEA CI .17; .18 .29; .29 AIC 33298715.15 35099827.91 Note: CFI= Comparative fit index. RMSEA= Root mean square error of approximation. CI= Confidence Interval. AIC= Akaike information criterion.
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|Author:||Castro-Olivo, Sara Maria; Tran, Oanh Kim; Begum, Gazi Ferdousi; Arellano, Elizabeth Michelle; Garcia|
|Publication:||Contemporary School Psychology|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2013|
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