What makes the difference? Children and teachers talk about turning risk into resilience

Year: 1999

Author: Johnson, Bruce, Oswald, Murray, Howard, Sue

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The key question that most research into resilience asks is: What is it that makes some children apparently immune to risk factors that negatively affect others? In other words, why are some children able to overcome risky or negative life circumstances to live conventionally successful lives when others, exposed to the same level of risk, experience a wide range of negative life outcomes.

The study to be presented here asked 125 randomly selected 9 - 12 year olds and 25 teachers from 5 primary schools in disadvantaged areas in metropolitan Adelaide, what they thought accounted for the fact that 'some kids with tough lives do O.K.' while 'other kids with tough lives don't do O.K.' In other words, 'What makes the difference?'

This paper explores how the two groups of respondents discussed the question of 'What makes the difference?' in terms of the headings, Family, School, Community and Friends. While both children and teachers tended to see the role of the family and the community in promoting resilient behaviour in fairly similar terms, the two groups emphasised very different roles for the school. Moreover, children strongly emphasised the role of 'friends' in helping individual children develop resilience whereas none of the teachers cited 'friends' as being important in this regard.