Chapter 13

Protective Factors in Adolescence

Families: From their families, and in particular from their parents, adolescents need a combination of care (responsiveness) and discipline (demandingness). Responsiveness can be expressed not only by immediate family members but also by adult network structures and by community institutions. Demandingness is expressed through monitoring adolescents’ activities and expecting them to help out with the family’s needs. Family interactions that promote both connectedness and individuality also contribute to healthy personality development.

Communities: Neighborhoods that are safe, that offer adequate services, and that provide informal social networks and norms for their residents foster the development of youth assets such as supportive relationships with adult role models, healthy relationships with peers, participation in organized activities after school, and participation in religious activities. The healthiest communities for adolescents are those in which adolescents are more likely to be involved in institutions within the community.
Key Terms: collective efficacy

Schools: Schools contribute to positive development when they enable adolescents to feel safe and when students receive emotional support from their teachers. Teachers who are both supportive and demanding—qualities found in authoritative parents—are most effective.

Personal Strengths: Temperament, Competence, and Religion: In addition to characteristics of families, communities, and schools, the personal qualities of adolescents themselves serve as protective factors. Their temperament, intelligence, competence, sense of self-efficacy, and religious beliefs can help protect them against the stresses of daily life.

Stress and Coping

What makes an event stressful is not necessarily the event per se, but the need to adapt to the changes it brings about. In general, the more rapidly one needs to adapt, the more stress one experiences. Many situations can be interpreted in ways that increase or reduce their stress potential.
Key Terms: stress

How Adolescents Cope with Stress: Adolescents typically cope with stress in either of two general ways: problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. Those who seek out experiences that are relevant to the decisions or problems they face (information oriented) are most likely to adopt a problem-focused approach. Those who are relatively closed to new information, relying instead on the standards of others (normative oriented), are more likely to use an emotion-focused approach—as are individuals who procrastinate and do nothing when faced with stress (avoidant oriented).
Key Terms: coping, problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping

Gender and Ethnicity: Gender differences have been found with respect to methods of coping, with females being more likely to use emotion-focused coping than males. Some research, though, finds no gender differences in types of coping strategies or in how successfully either gender copes, instead finding coping effectiveness to differ based on feelings of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Among the most common sources of stress at school are aggression, bullying, and fear of theft, with these concerns considerably higher among African American and Hispanic students than among European American ones.

Learning Effective Coping Strategies: Adolescents can learn to cope with stress more effectively. By learning to appraise situations more accurately, adolescents can avoid common errors. Attributional errors, or errors that overestimate the importance of dispositional stressors and underestimate the importance of situational stressors, and errors arising from a tendency to notice only confirming information frequently lead to inaccurate appraisals and less-than-optimal coping strategies. The ways adolescents respond to stress can reduce it or increase it. Skills related to assertiveness, communication, negotiation, and compromise are most effective. Adolescents can also learn to anticipate and manage the emotions prompted by stress.
Key Terms: attributional error

Beyond Coping: Caring and Prosocial Behavior

Nearly one- third of U.S. adolescents volunteer in charitable activities. Many of these youth go beyond volunteering to establishing organizations of their own. Prosocial adolescents are more likely than their peers to describe themselves in terms of their values and ideals; and their sense of themselves is more likely to come from their parents than from their peers. The experience of being loved, of having their needs met by someone in their life, appears to be essential for adolescents to develop into caring people.

Positive Youth Development

The “Five Cs” serve to define positive youth development: competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring. The development of initiative may be critical if adolescents are to develop a vision for their lives and the skills needed to realize them. The daily contexts in which adolescents spend most of their time (schoolwork and leisure) afford few opportunities to develop initiative. Structured voluntary activities incorporate the components thought to contribute to the development of initiative: intrinsic motivation, concentrated attention, and the need to evaluate and adjust one’s performance to successfully accomplish a goal.
Key Terms: initiative, intrinsic motivation, engagement, temporal arc, structured voluntary activities

Love: Research shows that just one caring relationship in an adolescent’s life can make the difference between developing in a healthy or an unhealthy way.

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