Promoting Resilience and Strength in African American Children: Policy and Advocacy Needs and Recommendations Stephanie I. Coard, Ph.D. President and Founder – Kindred Behavioral Research, Inc& Associate Professor Human Development and Family Studies University of North Carolina – Greensboro
What is Resilience? • Promoting strength, health, and well-being • Positive individual adaptation within the context of significant adversity and resources
Resilience is complex • Ecological • Dynamic • Multidimensional • Bidirectional interaction between individuals and their environments within contexts (family, peers, school, community)
Resilience: How it Functions • In addition to questions about the definition of resilience, there are also questions about how it functions.
Resilience as domain specific • Example: If children living in an under- resourced neighborhood have been able to avoid using drugs, one might consider these children resilient. • However, were these children resilient if they underachieved in school? • Are there gradients or specific types of resilience? • Might it be possible that these children were “drug resilient” but maybe not “school resilient”?
Longstanding Criticisms of Resilience Research and Black Children and Families • Lacking a developmental perspective • Use of measures of unknown validity and reliability • Interpretation of differences as deficits • Confounding of race and social class • Inadequate elucidation of role of race and influence of racism • Lacking a cultural and socio-historical perspective Need paradigmatic shift in our view of African American children
Underlying Assumptions • Acceptance of African-Americans as both similar to and different from other racial/ethnic groups • Heterogeneity among African Americans • Resilience as a layered and multidimensional phenomena
Resilience is Dynamic • How do we make research match the reality of the developmental experience of African American youth? • How do we capture strengths and resources within the African American community that are not currently documented or prioritized in the current literature? • What are the mediators and moderators that effectively describe the relation between risk exposure and resilience in African American? • Role of schools and ECE?
Dynamic use of language Spirituality and Religion Human Connection Affect Verve Harmony Movement Communalism Individual Expression Orality Social time perspective African American Cultural Style Cultural expression of emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and movements that hold significance in African American culture, history, and experience and provide meaning and context for African American behaviors and experiences. Strength and resilience via the appreciation and consideration and incorporation of diverse African American stylings
Portrait of Resilience (APA, 2008) This portrait of resilience encompasses four themes (active engagement, flexibility, communalism, critical mindedness) to guide the interpretation of the research and offer new directions for future scholarship. Critical mindedness helps protect against experiences of discrimination and facilitates a critique of existing social conditions. With critical mindedness comes active engagementwhich includes agentic behavior in school, at home, and with peers, such that children and adolescents proactively and positively impact their environment.
Impact on settings, however, must be executed effectively and flexibilitybecomes essential. Flexibility promotes adaptation to cognitive, emotional, social, and physical situational demands and can include bicultural competence or fluency across multiple cultural contexts that youth must traverse. • Communalism includes the importance of social bonds and social duties, reflects a fundamental sense of interdependence and primacy of collective well-being, and offers the drive for connection and promotion within and across diverse groups.
Reframing “At-promise” NOT “At risk”
Racial Socialization Defined • The process by which messages are transmitted inter- and intra-generationally regarding the significance and meaning of race and ethnicity. • Involves teaching children values and norms associated with race/ethnicity, and problem-solving skills that enable children to be flexible in their approach to race-related situations, without losing a core sense of self. Coard, S. & Sellers, R. African American families as a context for racial socialization. (2005) In V. McLoyd, N. Hill and K. Dodge, (eds.) Emerging Issues In African-American Family Life: Context, Adaptation, and Policy. New York: Guildford Press. Stevenson, H., Winn, D.M., Walker-Barnes, C. & Coard, S.Style Matters: Towards a culturally relevant framework for interventions with African American families (2005) In V. McLoyd, N. Hill and K. Dodge, (eds.) Emerging Issues In African-American Family Life: Context, Adaptation, and Policy. New York: Guildford Press.
Complexities of Racial Socialization • Synergistic and dynamic • Bi-directional process • Deliberate and unintended • Transmission and reception • Moderated by family and ecological characteristics
Racial Socialization and Child Outcomes: Empirical Findings Racial Competence Academic Achievement Self-Efficacy Self-Esteem Behavioral Competence Delinquency Drug Abuse
Future Directions for Resilience Research with African American Youth • Reconsideration of current measures and methods • More comprehensive statistical analyses that consider contextual variables • Strength based interpretation of findings • Increased funding for identifying resilience research and program initiatives
EDUCATION RECOMMENDATIONS • Identification, recognition and promotion of Portrait of Resilience– w/in teachers, classrooms and students: • Identify the four constructs • Honor/recognize these constructs • Cultivate these strengths • critical mindedness and active engagement of particular importance within schools, teachers, and students. • Understand environmental systemic barriers and emotional regulation/expression that may interfere with the classroom learning experiences • Implement check-in periods or adult support within the school context to provide opportunities for youth to give voice to their experiences, concerns, and fears.
Assist parents and other stakeholders in accessing accurate information about evidence-based competence promotion programs for children and adolescents so that they may be informed consumers of services. • Educate and encourage the media in accurately portraying African American children and youth. • Provide technical assistance and education to teachers, school administration, and the educational system on teaching African American youth, emphasizing the need to honor, recognize, and cultivate strengths of African American children and adolescents.
Establish mechanisms to inform the public and professionals about which practices and programs do NOT work in order to minimize naïve consumer exposure to professionals who make false or unsubstantiated claims.
POLICY and ADVOCACY • Advocate for policy decisions impacting African American youth and families that are informed by and based on research that has identified factors that promote resilience. • Develop, support, and enforce policies that reduce racism and promote cultural competence. • Advocate on the national, state, and local levels to articulate knowledge of resilience and encourage dissemination of how protective mechanisms and processes of healthy psychological functioning occur in African American children and adolescents.
Advocate for local and national funding agencies to incorporate culturally relevant guidelines and recommendations into request for proposals (RFPs) for research and programming targeting African American youth and families. • Involve African American families in policy making. Families should participate in policy making and be compensated for their time as consultants. • Develop policies that foster family, school, and community collaborations and lend themselves to early preventive intervention and reward schools that actively support sustained optimal development among African American children and youth.
Recommend increased collaboration across federal funding agencies involved in resilience research (e.g., NIMH, NICHD, CDC, SAMHSA, and Institution of Education Science [IES]). • Facilitate the development of interdisciplinary partnerships among physicians, mental health practitioners, educators/schools, community leaders, government agencies, and families to ensure adaptation, dissemination, and implementation of culturally relevant, evidence-based treatments (e.g., incorporate resilience strategies in community settings). • Educate across multiple constituencies (APA, congress, community) about the influence of African American lifestyles education/academic achievement and overall well being across the lifespan and the importance of prevention and promotion.
Report may be retrieved online at: http://www.apa.org/pi/cyf/resilience.html