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Spaces for the growth of resilience

September 29, 2011

The afore-mentioned Robbie Gilligan explains that “research evidence seems to underline the importance for those children who experience adversity at home to have havens of respite or asylum in other spheres of their lives.” (38)  He suggests it “may be helpful to think of five areas of spare time activities which may be helpful to young people.  These five areas are cultural pursuits, the care of animals, sport, helping and volunteering, and part-time work.” (42)  He explains:

“Why do spare time activities enhance resilience?

Spare time activities may help to develop instrumental and social skills.  They may help to strengthen a young person’s social network. They may enhance a youngster’s sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem.  They can help to promote a sense of belonging to a family or valued social group / mattering to people who are important to the child / and counting for something in a context that matters to the child.  They may offer a passport to social contact in new contexts in future.  They may introduce young people to positive peer relationships.  They may help to introduce the young person to adults who through their shared interest take on a mentoring role in the youngster’s life (Gilligan, 1999).  They may help the young person’s physical fitness. They may fill time and provide structure and a precious sense of purpose in daily living.” (44)

How often are these spaces promoted, explored, and understood in literature for young adults?

they connected to resilience through the protagonists of such literature (directly/indirectly; overtly/less so)?

What ‘passports’ into such spaces are suggested to adolescents through such literature?

What aspects of these spaces (and pathways into them) are normalised in literature for YAs?

These questions are in part provoked by an awareness that the use of these texts as part of scholastic literacy development is one of many differences between children with sufficient resources (to develop resilience) and those with too few resources.

Spaces, pathways, journeys, passports, turning points…

Gilligan also identifies, earlier in this same article, the ‘pathway’ and the ‘turning point’ as key metaphors in understanding the development of resilience. “It may be helpful,” he writes, “to think of developmental pathways along which children progress as they grow up. …The pathway analogy allows us to glimpse the idea that a pathway can be altered by something relatively minor or transient.” (38)  He adds: “One favourable experience may be a turning point in a child’s or young person’s trajectory of development.” (39)

These metaphors are key metaphors in the English language – and in New Zealand culture (‘life as a journey’ etc., etc.)… There is probably loads of study into such metaphors (and their application in health/ their comparison with alternative metaphors for development/time)… but how do we apply them in our literature?

How are they inculcated?

How are they connected ‘positively’ to the ‘mapping’ of one’s life ‘course’?  

How are these metaphors offered to readers of YA literature as social/cultural/linguistic resources for the development of resilience?

How might Ann Pistacchi’s application of the whare tapa wha model of Maori health compare – and perhaps expose those ideas which seem self-evident? (Ref: Journal of New Zealand Literature; 2008; 26)

Ref: Robbie Gilligan (2000) ‘Adversity, Resilience and Young People: the protective value of positive school and spare time experiences.’ Children & Society 14, pp37-47


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