Protective and risk factors for adolescents in a residential school setting

Beth Joann Shaw, University of Rhode Island


Approximately 50% of American adolescents are at risk for developing personal and social problems (Weissberg, 1990). As a nation, how are we responding to this situation? Educational reformers are debating the removal of at-risk children living in poverty from their homes and placing them in residential educational facilities. Little empirical evidence exists that investigates the effects of removing adolescents from their homes.^ This study investigated the protective and risk factors associated with the resiliency, achievement, and adjustment of adolescents from low income home environments attending a residential school in combination with intraindividual, familial, and contextual protective/risk factors. The first question examined what combination of protective/risk factors predict adolescent achievement. The second question explored the ability of protective/risk variables to predict membership into an academic/behavioral protective or at-risk group. The third question examined the relationship among intraindividual variables and perceived adjustment to the residential school. Content analysis of survey questions revealed themes relevant to the adjustment process to a residential school.^ Study results supported the resiliency literature that attributes the adolescent resiliency to the combination of intraindividual, familial, and contextual factors. Gender-difference findings suggest that male and female adolescents are differentially affected by the interactions of various protective/risk factor combinations. The female students performed better than their male classmates on general cognitive ability as well as academic achievement, effort, and conduct. Conversely, male students experienced more difficulty across behavioral categories, they accumulated more residential disciplines and academic detention points than their female classmates.^ Another finding addressed the value of relationships and the necessity of familial and school supportive systems to promote adolescent achievement, adjustment, and resiliency. Results revealed the importance family plays in adolescent resiliency. Attending a residential school seems to be related to other familial and contextual factors, the students who attend the school for a longer period of time visit more frequently with family members. Clearly, adolescents respond in the direction of resiliency when the protective factors of family and school supportive systems are a part of the adolescent's life. ^

Subject Area

Education, Educational Psychology|Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Beth Joann Shaw, "Protective and risk factors for adolescents in a residential school setting" (1995). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9601873.