Over the past year, Resilient Youth Australia has surveyed 18,128 young Australian males in grade 3 to year 12 to gain a picture of their resilience. This paper is written to help you think about ways to build upon the strengths of boys and young men as well as addressing their areas of risk and vulnerability. The strengths of Australian young men 39% of boys have excellent or good levels of resilience. This tells us that while we have work to do, we also have a solid number of boys and young men who have resilience and who can be called upon to help raise the resilience of others. The areas of strength for young Australian boys are their connectedness to their adults in their lives and understanding of boundaries and expectations. This is also confirmed by their strong sense of belonging to their families and to school. Boys are less strongly connected to their friendship groups and to their community. We know that the most powerful antidote to suicide, violence and drug abuse is the sense of belonging people have in their lives. Feeling empowered enough to right wrongs and injustices is also a relative strength. Involving boys in projects that make a difference in the world alongside positive adults would be a powerful way of lifting resilience. The challenge for boys is in building personal values, a strong sense of personal identity and engagement in learning. School is important to boys with 77% reporting they are highly engaged at school and 79% valuing success for themselves.
Hope is a key predictor of well-being. The loss of hope is associated with despair, depression and low motivation. Hope can be seen as the feeling that young people can set goals and find routes to achieve those goals. 70 % report that they are very hopeful about their lives. 67 % of boys are feel they are doing pretty well most or all of the time. Persistence is also an area of strength with 60% reporting that they can find ways to solve problems when others would give up trying. The majority of boys feel confident (76%), able to make decisions (85%) and able to confront problems they face in their lives (83%). 58% of young people do not see violence as a useful way of solving interpersonal problems. 77 % are not at risk of alcohol problems and 92% are not at risk of illegal drug problems. 80 % of boys do not gamble online. 65% of boys feel that have an adult in their lives who cares for them and 64% believe adults listen to their points of view. In essence we have a large group of capable boys who are well linked to their families, engaged in school and are positive about their future. They do not see violence and bullying as appropriate and are not inclined to experiment overly with alcohol or illegal drugs. What our least resilient boys look like Compared to the capabilities and strengths of most boys, life for the 21% of boys with low levels of resilience looks very different.
For these least resilient boys, school is not welcoming, home is not a place of connection and friendships when they occur don’t come easily. In short they feel disconnected, unsupported, alienated and without hope of change. Only 23% of our least resilient boys feel they have an adult that care for them and even less (3%) have an adult who listens to them or acts as a positive role model for them These boys hold more positive views towards alcohol, drug use and the use of violence in solving relationship issues. 3% of them feel it is necessary to carry a weapon at school. How to increase the resilience of boys. Our nation and our communities need to develop strategies to impact on our least resilient boys, if we are to increase overall wellbeing. It is not an easy challenge. They are not well linked into their families, are not active participants in their communities and they are relatively impervious to classroom based interventions. They are not without strengths but they are at-risk and are difficult to reach. To impact positively on our least resilient boys we need to engage the boys with good rather than high levels of resilience. These are the boys who could show leadership and act as role models to less resilient boys but do not feel they are able to. We need to activate the hero and the leader within this group of boys as a matter of priority. The 33% of boys with good levels of resilience show strengths in links to adults, empowerment and boundaries and expectations. They also have positive levels of hope and the capacity to solve the problems. This is in contrast to the 22% of boys with low levels of resilience who have few positive values, lack many social skills and have a low sense of their ability to make a positive contribution
Our research indicates that the following steps are effective in increasing resilience in boys. 1. Complete the on-line Resilience Survey. To date this shows the distribution of resilience is % of boys High resilience 6 Good resilience 33 Fair resilience 39 Low resilience 22 2. Share local results with council, youth leaders, school staff and the local community members to develop strategic priorities. 3. Convene focus groups of young people of different resilience levels where they will endorse some findings and refute others. 4. Increasing resilience involves engaging boys at different levels of resilience to devise projects that will be seen as worthwhile by everyone. These projects draw upon the strengths of the more resilient boys and lift the low areas of the less resilient boys. To date these “Resilience Ambassadors” have devised projects to: Donate shoes to Africa Friendship Days Amazing Race activities Pledge academic success Encourage tolerance and diversity Increase compassion in schools Community arts and literacy projects Develop Circus and drumming Skills. 5. Interested adults meet regularly with student teams to guide the projects. 6. Local adults look at the results and discuss what interventions or changes are needed in addition to student–led projects. 7. The survey is then repeated annually to evaluate successes to date and to further refine future interventions. Andrew Fuller can be contacted at www.andrewfuller.com.au If you are interested in enquiring about the survey, please contact: Dr. Andrew Wicking, Research Manager Phone: +61 400 113945 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org