Australian Institute of Criminology

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Resilience minimises risk

Media Release

28 November 2000

A landmark study on the emerging concept of human resilience is the focus of a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology.

"We all know that young adults at risk are many times more likely to develop anti-social behaviours, abuse alcohol or drugs and be the perpetrators or victims of violence", Dr Adam Graycar, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology said today.

"But we are only just discovering that adolescents at risk who have access to protective factors and learn protective processes become more resilient, enabling them to adapt and overcome their circumstances", Dr Graycar said.

The findings in Resilient and Non-Resilient Behaviour in Adolescents by Dr Sue Howard and Dr Bruce Johnson highlight the need for more programs that provide support to families in crisis, greater recognition of the nurturing role of schools, and the establishment of more clubs and associations for young people in the community.

Young people who displayed resilience believed they had more control over their lives, spoke with pride about personal achievements, had a more positive view of the future, and felt a stronger sense of attachment to other people and of belonging in the community.

Resilient adolescents did not see themselves as victims of fate and did not accept personal weaknesses as unchangeable traits that would prevent them from being successful.

Non-resilient students were far more likely to be involved in violent conflict, particularly at school. They also described incidents where a victim mentality was modelled or encouraged by family members.

Many non-resilient students appeared to have few strategies for dealing with problems, and had poor study skills and few useful learning strategies.

The researchers interviewed 71 students aged 13-16 years from five South Australian State high schools who had been identified as at risk.

Questions included:

  • Who are the important people in your life?
  • What do you like about your life?
  • What are you proud of in your life?