Below, you will find descriptions of current projects seeking collaboration.
Adolescent Development and Resilience
Dr. Jacob Burack
Dr. Jacob Burack
The proposed project is part of an ongoing program of research among Aboriginal adolescents in nonurban communities that includes research, policy, educational, and clinical components. The research component is focused on the development of adolescents in the community with regard to issues of cultural identity, social and academic competence, risk factors and behaviors, and resilience in relation to developmental outcome. The goal of this work is to better understand the development of adolescents within the context of their environment and the factors that predict positive and/or negative outcomes.
In order to assess risk and resilience, we choose measures that allow us to examine topics that are generally relevant to the study of adolescents and those that are more specific to Aboriginal youths. Consistent with the work with adolescents from many different types of communities and backgrounds, we study the relation among risk factors, social and emotional well-being, academic performance, peer relationships, and both adaptive and maladaptive behaviour. With regard to issues that are specific to Aboriginal adolescents, we study the extent to which the adolescents reconcile their identities and notions of success within the context of both their Native culture and the majority culture. In addition, we try to tailor some of our measures to reflect the specific concerns of each community, such as those related to recreational and educational activities, community service agencies, and spirituality.
Our study of both risk and well-being will be considered across domains of functioning that are essential to the specific developmental periods of late childhood and adolescence, and will be considered in relation to societal and community expectations, demands, and opportunities. Within this attempt to assess resilience of the “whole child”, different levels of competence will be examined to identify those factors that contribute to positive outcomes as well as to those that are problematic. These include academic performance, social understanding, relationships with peers and significant adults, cultural identity, behavioral appropriateness in relation to societal and community standards, and emotional well-being.
By focusing on this range of issues, the development of the children and adolescents are considered from both the perspective of development within the community’s unique culture and heritage as well as within the context of Western society. This strategy highlights the notion that Aboriginal youths share many characteristics and developmental issues with their peers from other cultures, but must primarily be considered within the framework of the unique developmental concerns of their own communities and backgrounds. The information from this study will be useful for developing and instituting policy and curriculum changes in schools and elsewhere in the communities.
As a complement to this work, we provide workshops to educators, meet with and advise teachers and other school personnel about students with special needs, address issues of curriculum and social policy with members of the community, and provide feedback about our research findings with regard to implications for the school and community.