Cultural and Developmental Variations in the Resiliencies Promoted by School Counselors

By Taylor, Elizabeth R.; Karcher, Michael | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Cultural and Developmental Variations in the Resiliencies Promoted by School Counselors


Taylor, Elizabeth R., Karcher, Michael, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Little is known about whether school counselors actually target resiliency in their guidance and counseling efforts. Using survey data from a nationally representative sample of 314 school counselors, researchers found that school counselors emphasized different resiliencies with ethnic minority and majority students and at different frequencies in elementary, middle, and high school.

Adverse living circumstances (such as living in poverty or with family discord) increase children's risk for negative outcomes including maltreatment, poor health, adult criminality, violent behavior, and substance abuse problems later in life (Wadsworth, Raviv, Compas, & Connor-Smith, 2005). Sameroff, Gutman, and Peck (2003) found that multiple risks often outweigh protective factors, "the more risks, the worse the outcomes" (p. 386). Risks also rarely occur in isolation and are interrelated. For example, the death of a parent or a divorce often results in a decline of income (Pelligrini, 1990). Werner and Smith (1992) found that those children born into poverty who suffered four or more risk factors (e.g., perinatal stress, family discord, divorce, and parental alcoholism or mental illness) by the time they were 10 years old were much more likely to have mental health problems, become teen parents, and engage in delinquent behavior by age 18.

The adverse effects of cumulative risk factors are consistent across age, sex, and cultural group. A major source of stress is poverty (Gutter man, 2001), and over represented among those with limited financial and educational resources are children from minority populations (Bergman, 2007; Bernstein, 2008). Poverty, not ethnicity, appears to be the primary genesis of many risk factors (Markstrom, Marshall, &C Try on, 2000).

Resilience Defined

Not all who live in financially impoverished, violent, or discordant families are destined to the same negative outcomes, For example, those children whose ternperament is easygoing and friendly appear to endear people to them, which enables these children to enlist support at school or in the community (Wachs, 2006). Some establish a healthy independence as opposed to family enmeshment problem behaviors. Others utilize insight to identify when to remove themselves from dangerous situations physically or emotionally (Werner Sc Smith, 1992). As researchers shift the public's focus toward capitalizing on these strengths, counselors have more support for their perspective that "the normal functioning of human beings cannot be accounted for within purely negative (or problem-focused) frames of reference" (Sheldon &C King, 2001, p. 216). This "process of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenging and threatening circumstances" (Masten, Best, &C Garmezy, 1990, p. 426) is what defines resilience.

Because change and discomfort, as well as psychological risks, are inherent in development and vary across life's stages, "many vulnerability or protective processes concern key turning points in people's lives, rather than long-standing attributes or expressions as such" (Rutter, 1998, p. 187). Therefore, resilience is likely a function of both matura tional and cognitive changes, as well as social circumstances, experiences, and opportunities (Rutter, 2005).

Role of School Counselors in Addressing Resiliencies

Resiliencies can be divided between environmental and individual processes. Environmental resiliency processes include positive family environments, extrafamilial support systems, and faith or religious commitment (Masten, Best, & Garmezy, 1990; Werner & Smith, 1992, 2001). While some things school counselors may not be able to directly affect through guidance and counseling, such as a child?s family size or the family? spiritual commitment, several environmental processes might be within the purview of the school counselor? …

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