Building Conditions for Learning and Healthy Adolescent Development

A Strategic Approach

Authored by: David Osher , Kimberly Kendziora

Handbook of Youth Prevention Science

Print publication date:  March  2010
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780805863314
eBook ISBN: 9780203866412
Adobe ISBN: 9781135239633


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Schools can play a key role in promotion, prevention, and adolescent development. In schools, students confront major developmental challenges, are judged by important natural raters, interact with prosocial and antisocial peers, and acquire (or fail to acquire) important capacities and credentials that may enable them persevere or thrive. From the perspective of risk and protection, schools may function as a protective factor, creating a safe harbor and sense of safety, offering challenges and a sense of mission, fostering positive relationships with adults and prosocial peers, developing competencies and a sense of efficacy, and providing students with access to social capital, mental health supports and youth-development opportunities. Unfortunately, schools—particularly many serving students of color—may also be stressful places that function as a risk factor, as youth adapt their behaviors to relatively inflexible bureaucratic structures and adult-driven demands within a high-stakes environment (e.g., Eccles & Midgely, 1989). Instead of safe harbors, schools can be treacherous whirlpools, exposing students to physical and emotional violence, boredom, alienation, and academic frustration, negative relationships with adults and peers, teasing, bullying, gangs, public humiliation and failure, segregation with antisocial peers, harsh punishment, and expulsion from the school community and its resources. In this chapter, we outline the role of schools in student development, describe an intervention that has been implemented successfully, describe the intervention’s development, and discuss the implications of the intervention, including research findings that emphasize the importance of improving the social and emotional conditions for learning to prevention initiatives.

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