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Understanding the resilience pathways of adolescent students with experience of physical family violence

The interplay of individual, family and school class risk and protective factors

A project of the Institution for Research and Developement
SNF-Project 100019_185481/1

Article EU Research "Beyond Survival: Understanding Resilience in Adolescents Facing Family Violence"

Internationally, approximately one in five adolescents experience physical family violence. A large body of research has shown that exposure to family violence in adolescence has a negative impact on later life events. However, there is a lack of empirically based knowledge regarding changes in the resilience of adolescents in the face of physical family violence experienced over time, especially of studies investigating risk and protective factors influencing resilience pathways for adolescents.

The aims

Our goal is to examine the relationship between exposure to physical family violence and known risk and protective factors modelled with individual, family and school class predictors. Resilience is understood as a condition that reflects both adolescents’ internalizing (depression) and externalizing (aggression against peers) indicators as the most central symptoms in adolescence of the experience of physical family violence.
We are interested in understanding

  • the stability over time of the resilience status,
  • the interplay of procedural risk and protective factors for resilience pathways over time,
  • how these patterns work for the different resilient groups of adolescents.

The study

The study will employ a public schoolbased questionnaire with 2,700 pupils (ages 14 to 16, seventh to ninth grades) and their respective 98 classteachers from 98 high school classes in Switzerland. To understand and identify resilience pathways and analyse resilience stability, we will examine after the t0‐baseline when entering high‐school at three time points, namely the end of the respective school year in high school in the seventh (t1), eighth (t2) and ninth (t3) grades.

Relevance and Impact

Heterogeneity is at the centre of the research, developing differential pathway models to identify how adolescents’ lives can be comprehended in terms of resilience in the face of experiencing physical family violence. Empirically validated knowledge on how to support adolescents exposed to family violence is fundamental but still a desideratum for solid intervention and prevention at schools and in families.
How adolescents may perceive school as a safe place and where they may find some support to deal with the impact of family violence exposure (Buckley et al., 2007; Byrne & Taylor, 2007) is one of the main topics of this project.  Adolescents students may have limited coping skills when facing exposure to family violence and, because teachers are in contact with students on a regular basis, they play an important role in supporting adolescents as they attempt to cope with the impact of family violence, serving as positive role models for children, and enhancing children’s safety (Baker & Cunningham, 2009; Haeseler, 2013). Supporting students self-esteem and self-efficacy and parallelly reducing depression and aggression rates at school can also be considered as a central goal on cross-curricular competences of the new Swiss curriculum Lehrplan 21 (Erziehungsdirektorenkonferenz, 2014). One of our main results will be enabling teachers and student teachers to understand the dynamics and effects of family violence and especially the role of schools on resilience patterns. We will develop and apply courses for basic teacher training and additionally offer courses for continuing education programmes.

The results of the project will be relevant for

  • Educational and Psychological academic specialists who are involved in research on social development of adolescent students and interested in the complex patterns to improve adolescents’ developmental outcomes despite family violence.
  • teacher experts, social workers, and instructors from applied research who are interested in a more practice application of the project’s insights in classroom management, teacher training or for evaluation purposes in school when e.g, running a violence prevention programme.

Finally, a closing conference with national and international attendees will be organized in year four.

Project lead (Principal investigator)

Prof. Dr. Wassilis Kassis
Prof. Dr. Wassilis Kassis

Leiter Institut Forschung und Entwicklung Pädagogische Hochschule FHNW

Telefon +41 56 202 86 74 (Direkt)

Project team

Dr. Céline Anne Favre
Dr. Céline Anne Favre

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Institut Forschung und Entwicklung

Telefon +41 56 202 85 63 (Direkt)
Dr. phil. Dilan Aksoy
Dr. phil. Dilan Aksoy

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin

Telefon +41 56 202 86 15 (Direkt)
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