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Stresses, Strengths and Resilience in Adolescents: A Qualitative Study.

Authors
  • Phillips, Susan P1
  • Reipas, Kristen2
  • Zelek, Barb3
  • 1 School of Medicine, Queen's University, 220 Bagot St., Kingston, ON, K7L 5E9, Canada. [email protected] , (Canada)
  • 2 School of Medicine, Queen's University, 220 Bagot St., Kingston, ON, K7L 5E9, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 3 Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Marathon Family Health Team, 22 Peninsula Rd., Marathon, ON, P0T 2E0, Canada. , (Canada)
Type
Published Article
Journal
The journal of primary prevention
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2019
Volume
40
Issue
6
Pages
631–642
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10935-019-00570-3
PMID: 31659580
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Resilience, or positive adaptation in the face of adversity, mitigates the negative effects of stress and promotes lifelong physical and mental wellbeing. Identifying adolescents who are struggling with stress could provide opportunities for individual clinical preventive interventions. However, resilience assessments are rarely performed in clinical settings and no clear, evidence-based protocols or language for such exploration exist. The aim of this qualitative study was to identify both clinically feasible methods for assessment, and actual findings, regarding stress, supports, attributes, and strategies youth consider most useful for building resilience. We recruited 59 urban and rural dwelling 13-16 year olds from two Canadian primary care practices. Interviewers asked five open-ended questions about sources of stress and resilience and wrote summaries of answers provided. These were then coded. Researchers independently identified conceptual themes, then reached consensus on these. Stress arose from schoolwork and conflicts with friends or family, rather than from socioeconomic adversities. A majority of participants felt able to manage stresses well, finding strength through (1) social connection with family or friends; (2) self-reliant activities including exercise, music or drawing; and (3) personal attributes such as optimism, calmness and competence. They used a variety of approaches to work through stress, many of which align with key domains of resilience, as well as the novel technique of distraction. Ruminating on stress-provoking events made youth feel they were coping poorly. Most participants experienced stress and drew strength from psychosocial and emotional assets, as well as external resources that fostered resilience. Direct, open conversation was particularly effective for building rapport, augmenting strengths by discussing them, and identifying those who were struggling. Similar questions asked in clinical practice may open doors to deep and, perhaps, transformative conversations and evidence-based preventive interventions.

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