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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Promoting positive development in middle childhood : the influence of child characteristics, parents, schools, and neighbourhoods Thomson, Kimberly


From a strengths-based approach, the current study explored how individual child characteristics and social resources within children’s families, schools, and neighbourhoods singularly and collectively predicted five dimensions of resilience in middle childhood: optimism, self-efficacy, interpersonal sensitivity, and relationships with peers, and relationships with adults. Specifically, this study explored the relative influence of four child characteristics (depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, self-concept, positive behaviour), three parenting characteristics (parent support, parent knowledge, dinner with an adult family member), two school characteristics (school adult support, school connectedness), and two neighbourhood characteristics (neighbourhood adult support, neighbourhood safe places) on these dimensions of resilience. Based on the literature, it was hypothesized that individual assets (i.e., characteristics within the child) would explain children’s resilience better than ecological assets (i.e., characteristics within the child’s environment), but that multiple resources within children’s social environments (particularly, supportive adults) would predict higher resilience. Data were collected from 1,250 children ages 9 to 13 (grades 4-7) attending 23 elementary schools in 7 school districts in British Columbia, Canada. All variables were obtained via child self-report with the exception of the positive behavior variable, which was obtained via teacher-report. Correlational and hierarchical regression analyses revealed, as expected, that child characteristics were stronger predictors of resilience than contextual factors, even after controlling for children’s age, gender, ESL status, and lone parent status. However, practices within families, schools, and neighbourhoods continued to predict children’s resilience even after accounting for child characteristics. Jointly, adult supportiveness at each level of context was also associated with greater resilience in children. This study concludes that during middle childhood, characteristics within the child (i.e., psychological well-being and self-concept) are important predictors of resilience, but children’s social contexts, including their parents, schools, and neighbourhoods, influence their resilience as well. Suggestions for promoting resilience in middle childhood are presented.

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