Thursday, December 12, 2013

Melbourne Researchers Seek to Find Recipe for Resilient Children Who Overcome Adversity

Ordinary Magic: David DeSteno
Ordinary Magic: David DeSteno (Photo credit: ChimpLearnGood)
by Brigid O'Connell, Herald Sun News:

About 700 vulnerable families will be surveyed by Murdoch Childrens Research Institute as part of a $1 million project to create the first international measure of resilience.

Dr Deirdre Gartland, senior researcher from the Healthy Mothers Healthy Families project at MCRI, said there was no measure of resilience for children under 12.

This meant there was no basis on which to develop interventions to protect vulnerable children, despite those exposed to adversity and trauma at greater risk of behavioural, emotional and health problems.

"We know that lots of children and adults are exposed to trauma and difficulties in their lives but they grow up to be healthy, happy, well-functioning people,'' Dr Gartland said.

"That's what resilience is seen as. If we can identify what kind of things help those families to do well, we can apply it more broadly to other families. From previous research we know resilience is having a close bond with a parent or another significant adult from an early age, having social skills and positive bonds with friends".

"We also know positive connections with school, teachers and learning around the ages of 7-10 years is vital, as is having a neighbourhood that's responsive to your needs.''

The first part of the study, which will begin next year and is backed by a National Health and Medical Research Council grant, will see 90 families of indigenous, refugee and domestic violence backgrounds surveyed about the wellbeing and experiences of their children.

Once a childhood resilience measure had been developed, Dr Gartland said children from up to 700 families would be tested against the indicators.

The questionnaire will be available for use by teachers, medical professionals and child welfare workers to identify what areas of life vulnerable children are struggling, and to measure the success of intervention programs.

"A child who is resilient is not necessarily resilient in every area of their life. They might be doing well academically, but not so well socially. This measure will give teachers something they can work on together with parents".

"If you can get in there early with families that are struggling, you can change the trajectory of a child's life in a more positive way.''
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