Eight years on: Trajectories of risk and resilience beyond childhood and adolescence

Year: 2005

Author: Howard, Susan, Johnson, Bruce

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In 1997 we began a research project that tracked a cohort of approximately 50 students aged between 9 and 12 over a period of 5 years. The students lived in highly disadvantaged areas. Our aim was to identify the factors, be they individual, social and/or environmental that contributed to each student’s risk and resilience status and to track how this status changed over time. By the end of the project the participants were aged from 13 – 16 years so we had been able to track most of them through early adolescence and the often difficult transition from primary to high school. Our insights from the huge body of data gathered through this project have been reported at AARE conferences from 1997 on and in Australian and international refereed journals.

Many longitudinal studies, particularly in the areas of physical health and social adjustment (e.g. the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development study) have shown the benefit of tracking research participants beyond adolescence. Accordingly, we set about finding some of our former participants (aged now between 17 and 21) in order to ascertain their present risk/resilience status. Drawing on the work of Rutter (1999) we show in two case studies how negative and positive chain reactions in people’s lives have influenced outcomes and how there are also critical events or ‘turning points’ where choices made have the potential to disrupt these chain effects.