Exploring the resilience of youth living in a high-risk community
Thesis (MEdPsych (Educational Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
This study is aimed at exploring the resilient attributes of youth in a high-risk community. The primary aims were to identify the challenges that youth perceived to be significant to them in their community and then to identify their coping strategies and other supports that helped them to deal with these challenges and to maintain their positive lifestyle. A basic interpretive, qualitative research design was used. Data were gathered through six semi-structured individual interviews, a focus-group interview, observations and a literature study. The participants comprised four boys and two girls, their ages ranging between 14 years and 19 years. Content analysis was used to analyse the data. The findings of this study indicate that the youth perceived their environment as posing challenges to them in a number of areas, these included community resources, safety, barriers to community development, the negative stereotyping of youth and the specific dangers to the well-being of youth. Furthermore, the participants identified several coping strategies that they employed in dealing with these challenges. These strategies were related to their choices about friendships, to the strategies that they used to protect themselves, to their attitude to others, to respect, to their orientation towards the future, to work ethic, to successful role-models and to education. In addition, individual, family and community resources emerged as factors that supported the youth in maintaining their positive lifestyle. The individual resources that were identified were the belief of the youth in the value of friendships, their view of their family, religion, their ability to deal with difficulties, an altruistic attitude, self-awareness and self-esteem, their personal beliefs, personal attributes and their attitude to life. The family resources that were identified were effective parenting and family communication. The community resources that were identified were support from a positive adult. These findings confirm that many factors influence an individual's resilience and that resilience should therefore be understood as a dynamic and fluctuating process that is best understood from an ecosystemic perspective. The implications of these findings are that, in order to support youth in a high-risk environment to cope with their challenges, the focus should be on reducing risk and increasing assets and protective factors. This could be achieved through, for example, the provision of resources for extracurricular activities, programmes for the support and development of parental skills, training and support for schools in order to increase their effectiveness as a source of support and mechanisms for the community to support community members to care for their youth.