Invitational Theory and Practice Applied to Resiliency Development in At-Risk Youth

By Lee, R. Scott | Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

Invitational Theory and Practice Applied to Resiliency Development in At-Risk Youth


Lee, R. Scott, Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice


There is growing evidence regarding how adult mentor relationships support the development of resilience in at-risk children and youth. In traditional societies, resilience was developed in children and youth through hundreds of natural interactions between the child/youth and adults that occurred every day (Brendtro, Brokenleg, & Van Bockern, 2002; Brendtro & Shahbazian 2004). These mechanisms that traditional societies provided youth through mentoring relationships between many adults and children would automatically develop resiliency in youth (Brokenleg, 2007). Longitudinal studies of at-risk youth by Werner and Smith (1992) followed a cohort group from birth to adulthood on Kauai, Hawaii. These studies, collectively known as the Kauai resilience studies, demonstrated that despite significant risk factors, many factors led to positive outcomes by the time the children had reached adulthood. Their findings also indicated that children with supportive and mentoring adult relationships developed resiliency. These resilient youth were found to have successful outcomes in adulthood (Werner, 1993). According to Benard (2004), resilience is the ability of an individual to develop internal personal strengths that allow the person to develop into a positive, pro-social member of the society at large. These personal strengths are based on values that the individual develops and nurtures internally. Benard (2004) found that most theories of the development of personal strengths interpret these values as falling into four categories: social competence, problem solving, autonomy, and sense of purpose. Invitational Theory and Practice as outlined by Purkey and Novak (1996, 2008) has similar values of trust, care, optimism, respect, and intentionality.

At issue is more than just being synonymous; the Invitational Theory and Practice model promotes resilience because it intentionally develops values. Purkey and Novak (1996, 2008) further discussed the importance of Invitational values permeating within a public school, alternative school or educational organization, not only the relationships between teachers and students. The "Five P's" of People, Places, Programs, Policies and Processes emphasize that all relationships are valuable within a public school, alternative school, or youth development organization. The connection between relationships and resilience development would make Invitational Theory and Practice useful within student-centered schools, alternative schools, or youth development organizations. Inviting relationships, by nature, will develop resilience.

Discussion

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded one of the first demonstration projects (Hobbs 1982) designed to promote resiliency in at-risk youth geographically near to the location where the International Alliance for Invitational Education was founded. Nicholas Hobbs, who later would become president of American Psychological Association, received funding and founded a program known as Project Re-Ed (Foltz 2011).

Project Re-Ed would also eventually lead to the founding of the American Re-Education Association (AREA) which is still in existence.

Project Re-Ed was a semi-residential program with students living on campus during the week and going home on weekends. The program also provided counseling, education, and additional services to the families of the youth served.

This therapeutic and academic program was based on the assumption that children and youth who demonstrated difficult behaviors should not be punished by being sent to punitive rehabilitation programs. Instead, Hobbs instead felt that a central concern for negative behavior choices were traumatic experiences within what Brofenbrenner (1979) referred to as the ecology of the child. The central treatment belief was that change in the ecology could lead to change in behavior. Over time, the result was an improving life for the student (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). …

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