Resilience Update – The strengths of boys Andrew Fuller and Andrew Wicking

powerOver 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  If you are interested in enquiring about the  survey, please contact:  Dr. Andrew Wicking, Research Manager  Phone: +61 400 113945  Email:

Be first to comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.