Transitioning from one service to another can be a confusing and stressful process, especially for youth. The risks they face in the home or community, as well as their strengths and abilities impact what services youth are referred to. The Pathways to Resilience Project seeks to better understand how youth navigate between mandated services (child welfare, education, mental health, and youth justice) to successful outcomes.
The Pathways to Resilience Research Project (PTR) is a mixed methods research study that examines service use patterns, personal and ecological risk factors, and aspects of resilience of youth across different cultures, contexts, and with complex service histories. It began in Canada and now includes partners in at least five countries: Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Colombia, and China.
We partner with communities and service providers in each of the above countries to help them identify:
- The culturally specific aspects of resilience (strengths and capacities) that young people in their community use to cope with problems.
- The psychological, social, and environmental risks that young people face.
- Young people’s service use patterns, i.e. their use of mandated services like Child Welfare, Corrections, Mental Health, Addictions, and Special Educational Services at school, their use of informal supports from their family and communities, and their use of informal services provided by families, communities and local not-for-profit community organizations.
The Pathways to Resilience Research Project (PTR) is a series of studies that integrates both quantitative and qualitative research methods. It began in Canada in 2007 with funding from the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC), and will continue until 2014 with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the International Development Research Centre, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology in New Zealand.
The principal goal of the Pathways to Resilience Project is to identify pathways that result in positive psychosocial outcomes for youth who face significant levels of adversity.
*In other words: to identify what helps young people do well, despite facing risks.*
In addition to this, the goals of the Pathways to Resilience Project are:
- To identify pathways through mandated and informal services; the informal family and community supports available to youth; and which service use pathways and support networks are most predictive of positive psychosocial outcomes for youth who face significant levels of adversity.
- To provide participating communities, schools, governments, and service providers a very detailed understanding of young people’s ways of coping with adversity and the risks they face.
- To help service providers from many different organizations find ways to coordinate services, create new services young people say they need, and find ways young people can engage with community and family supports that can help them “grow up well” despite the challenges they face.
Youth participating in the Pathways to Resilience Project are between the ages of 13 and 19. We seek the following three groups of young people:
- Youth using at least one mandated service. We ask for referrals from child protection workers, mental health counsellors, corrections officers, school guidance counsellors, as well as community groups working with youth. These are the Service User population. In most cases, we seek youth who are using more than one service or community support to ensure we reach the youth most at-risk and in need of intervention.
- Youth who are known to face many risks but who are still doing well. We ask communities to identify these youth. This is culturally and contextually relevant. Youth who are doing well in each of our various sites look different. Any young person community advisors say faces significant risk but is still doing well is ideal for the study.
- Youth who are living in the community. We select youth living in the same community as the youth from the previous two samples. We have found it easiest to find these young people through their schools or by putting up posters in their community, or simply by going door-to-door and locating young people who are willing to be interviewed.
The Pathways to Resilience Project includes both qualitative and quantitative methods. All youth referred to the study complete the Pathways to Resilience Youth Measure (PRYM). Two sub-samples of youth are then invited to continue their participation in the study. When youth who are between the ages of 13 and 15 we follow their progress for up to three years, seeing if their pattern of service use, the risks they face, and their resilience, changes. We meet with them annually, asking of them to complete the PRYM again each time. This longitudinal data helps us understand how service use patterns change as young people make the transition from child to young adult.
We also conduct very detailed one-on-one qualitative interviews that let a second sub-sample of young people tell us, in their own words, about the risks they face, resources available to them, their coping strategies and what’s helpful and unhelpful in their context.
When possible, and with the informed consent of participants, we review the service files of multiple service using youth in order to better understand the pathways they’ve traveled between services, and the full scope of all the services they have received from each provider. Using a grounded theory approach to data analysis, we look for common themes throughout the qualitative data.
Local researchers hold focus groups with young people, their caregivers, and service providers to help analyze the data and make recommendations for new policies and interventions.
Finally, we support the development of pilot initiatives that reach out to vulnerable youth, help coordinate services better, or connect youth to informal supports. Anything that fosters resilience, and is relevant to a local community, can be supported by the PTR. Our role as researchers is to help each community establish an intervention and then use our multiple research methods to set up program and evaluate it to see if it is helping.
Tools: What is the PRYM?
The PRYM comprises a collection of validated scales and explores young people’s resilience, the risks they face, the supports available to them and their service use patterns.
The measure takes approximately 50 minutes to complete and is ordinarily read through with the young person. The measure has also been designed for use with youth as young as nine years old, as well as an adult person who knows the youth well. All methods are designed to be adapted for use in local sites, ensuring cultural and contextual relevance.
Though still in progress, one of the major findings from the PTR is that positive service use experiences facilitate resilience processes, which in turn leads to functional outcomes for youth (Ungar, M., Liebenberg, L., Armstrong, M., Dudding, P., and Van de Vijver, F. (2013). Patterns of Psychosocial Service Use: Individual and Contextual Risk factors, and Resilience among Adolescents Using Multiple Services. Child Abuse and Neglect, 37, 150-159).
What this means is that when you have a positive experience with a service, they feel value, listened to, they have decision making power over what happens to them, they are more likely to have resilience processes (for example, a strong belief system, be connected to their environment or community, have friendships with supportive peers, and have coping and social skills). Once these processes have been supported and developed, youth do well, which looks different depending on the culture and context.
The concept of supporting youth resilience is also captured in this short video.
Click here for the resilience tree model, and learn more about supporting youth resilience!
Ikeda, J., Hubley, N., and Liebenberg, L. (2013). Pathways to Resilience: Supporting Youth Resilience [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od5a20mXDw4
Youth from various services have also put together short videos about the findings from their specific program. Overwhelmingly, youth have completed videos about the role that adults, such as service providers have on their well-being and experience of the program.
Ikeda, J., Hubley, N., and Liebenberg, L., and Participants of the Places to Resilience Project. (2013). Pathways to Resilience: NunatuKavut Labrador Youth [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/ebTCe8jrdUY.
Youth Pathways and Transitions, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Ikeda, J., Hubley, N., and Liebenberg, L., and Participants of the Places to Resilience Project. (2013). Pathways to Resilience: Youth Pathways and Transitions [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/ywUzULkLNeg.
Phoenix Youth Programs, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Ikeda, J., Hubley, N., and Liebenberg, L., and Participants of the Places to Resilience Project. (2013). Pathways to Resilience: Phoenix Youth Programs [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/zSzJJBPhQQw.
The PTR is being carried out in five countries: Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Colombia, and China. For more information on these sites visit internationalresilience.org.
Each site includes a small advisory committee of two to three local individuals who can help to identify appropriate ways to access youth, help to define the construct of resilience, and oversee the ethical application of the research in their community. These individuals are also influential in their community of service providers and act as aids for dissemination of results to practitioners and policy makers.
- Dr. Michael Ungar – School of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
- Dr. Linda Theron – School for Educational Sciences, Vaal Triangle Faculty, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
Site Leaders/ Co-Investigators
- Dr. Linda Liebenberg – Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
- Dr. Alexandra Restrepo Henao – Facultad Nacional de Salud Publica, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
- Dr. Luis F. Duque – Facultad Nacional de Salud Publica, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
- Ms. Tian Guo-Xiu – College of Politics and Law, Beijing Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
- Dr. Robyn Munford – Department of Social Work, School of Health and Social Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
- Dr. Jackie Sanders – Department of Social Work, School of Health and Social Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
- Dr. Erika M Montoya Vasquez – Facultad Nacional de Salud Publica, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
- Dr. Hermanus Strydom – Department of Social Work, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
- Dr. John Leblanc – Department of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
- Dr. Keith G. Chaulk – Labrador Institute, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Goose Bay-Happy Valley, NL, Canada
- Professor Nilton E. Montoya Gomez – Facultad Nacional de Salud Publica, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
- Dr. Mary Armstrong – Department of Child & Family Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, United States of America
- Dr. Tinie Theron – Dean, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
- Sergio Cristancho – Facultad Nacional de Salud Publica, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
- Dr. Madine VanderPlaat – Department of Sociology and Criminology, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS, Canada
- Dr. Xiying Wang – Social Development and Public Policy, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
- Dr. Donald Clairmont – Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
- Dr. Nancy Lee Heath – Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada
- Dr. Nora Noni MacDonald – Professor of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS
- Dr. Richard M. Lerner – Bergstrom Chair of Applied Developmental Science, Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA
- Dr. Tak-Yan Lee – Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
- Dr. Victor Thiessen – Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
- Dr. Wai-Man Kwong – Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
- Mr. John R. Graham – Graham Consulting Services, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada
- Ms. Ma Yiping – College of Politics and Law, Beijing Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
- Ms. Sun Zhiying – College of Politics and Law, Beijing Capital Normal University, Beijing, China Professor
- Nico Trocmé – Philip Fisher Chair of Social Work, McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada
- Fons van de Vijver – Depart of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg, Netherlands
- Peter Dudding – Child Welfare League of Canada, Iqualuit, Nunavut, Canada
Reports on each of the research contexts can be found on our report page.
Li, Haibin, Liebenberg, L., and Ungar, M. (under review). Understanding Service Provision and Utilization for Vulnerable Youth: Evidence from Multiple Informants. Submitted to Child and Family Social Work. [IF=0.831]
Sanders, J., Munford, R., Liebenberg, L., and Ungar, M. (under review). The peer paradox: Implications for policy and practice of the tensions that peer relationships raise for vulnerable youth. Submitted to Child and Family Social Work. [IF=.831]
Stevens, K., Munford, R., Sanders, J., Liebenberg, L. and Ungar, M. (in press). Change, relationships and implications for practice: The experiences of young people who use multiple services. Submitted to International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies.
Theron, L. C. (In press). Using research to influence policy and practice: The case of the Pathways-to-Resilience Study, South Africa. In A. Abubakar & F. van de Vjiver (Eds.), Handbook of applied developmental psychology for Sub Saharan Africa. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer.
Theron, L. C. (In press). Pathways to South African youth resilience: Commonplace, contextually and culturally relevant collaborations, and caveats. In F. E. Gouws (Ed). Adolescence. Pretoria, South Africa: Heinemann.
Sanders, J., Munford, R., Liebenberg, L. and Henaghan, M. (available online first). Show some emotion? Ethical and emotional tensions in undertaking research with vulnerable youth. Field Methods. doi: 10.1177/1525822X13516842 [IF= 1.11]
Liebenberg, L., Ikeda, J., and Ungar, M. (available online first). The Discourse of Responsibilization and Youth At Risk. British Journal of Social Work. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bct172 [IF= 1.19]
Ungar, M., Liebenberg, L., and Ikeda, J. (2014). Young People with Complex Needs: Designing Coordinated Interventions to Promote Resilience across Child Welfare, Juvenile Corrections, Mental Health and Education Services. British Journal of Social Work, 44, 675-693. DOI: 10.1093/bjsw/bcs147 [IF= 1.19]
Sanders, J., Munford, R., Liebenberg, L., and Ungar, M. (2014). Consistent Service Quality: The Connection between Service Quality, Risk, Resilience and Outcomes for Vulnerable Youth Clients of Multiple Services, Child Abuse and Neglect, 38, 687-697. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.10.024 [IF=1.61]
Theron, L.C., Liebenberg, L. and Malinidi, M. J. (2014). When schooling experiences are respectful of children’s rights: A pathway to resilience. School Psychology International, 35(3), 253-265. DOI: 1177/0142723713503254 [IF= 2.162]
Liebenberg, L., and Ungar, M. (2014). A Comparison of Service Use among Youth Involved with Juvenile Justice and Mental Health. Children and Youth Services Review, 39, 117-122. 10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.02.007 [IF= 1.37]
Theron, L.C. (2014). Being a ‘turnaround teacher’: Teacher-learner partnerships towards resilience. In M. Nel (Ed.), Life orientation for South African Teachers (pp. 203-216). Pretoria, RSA: Van Schaik.
Ungar, M. and Liebenberg, L. (2013). Ethnocultural Factors, Resilience and School Engagement. School Psychology International, 34(5), 514-526. DOI: 10.1177/0143034312472761 [IF= 2.162]
Thimasarn-Anwar, T., Sanders, J., Munford, R., Jones, G., and Liebenberg, L. (2013). Re-thinking late and lost to follow-up participants: the New Zealand youth transitions study. Journal of Youth Studies, 16(23). DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2013.836593
Ungar, M. and Liebenberg, L. (2013). Contextual Factors Related to School Engagement and Resilience: A Study of Canadian Youth with Complex Needs. Journal of Child and Youth Development, 1(1), 3-26.
Ungar, M., Liebenberg, L., Armstrong, M., Dudding, P., and Van de Vijver, F. (2013). Patterns of Psychosocial Service Use: Individual and Contextual Risk factors, and Resilience among Adolescents Using Multiple Services. Child Abuse and Neglect, 37, 150-159. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.05.007 [IF=1.61].
Theron, L. C. (2013). Black students’ recollections of pathways to resilience: Lessons for school psychologists. School Psychology International, 34(5), 527–539. doi: 0.1177/0143034312472762
Theron, L. C., Liebenberg, L., & Malindi, M. J. (2013). When schooling experiences are respectful of children’s rights: A pathway to resilience. School Psychology International, pre-print.doi: 10.1177/0142723713503254
Theron, L. C. & Theron, A. M. C. (2013). Positive adjustment to poverty: How family communities encourage resilience in traditional African contexts. Culture & Psychology, 19(3), 391–413. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354067X13489318
Theron, L. C. (2013). Community-researcher liaisons: The Pathways to Resilience Project advisory panel. South African Journal of Education, 33(4), 1-19.
Theron, L. C., Theron, A. M. C., & Malindi, M. J. (2013). Towards an African definition of resilience: A rural South African community’s view of resilient Basotho youth. Journal of Black Psychology, 39, 63–87.
Van Rensburg, A. C., Theron, L. C., Rothmann, S., & Kitching, A. (2013). The relationship between services and resilience: A study of Sesotho-speaking youths. The Social Work Practitioner-Researcher, 25(3), 286-308.
Theron, L. C., & Malindi, M. J. (2012). Conducting qualitative research: Practical guidelines on fieldwork. In J. G. Maree (Ed.), Complete your thesis or dissertation successfully: Practical guidelines (pp.96-108). Cape Town, South Africa:Juta.
Theron, L. C. (2012). Resilience research with South African youth: caveats and ethical complexities. South African Journal of Psychology, 42, 333-345.
Malindi, J. M., & Machenjedze, N. (2012). The role of school engagement in strengthening resilience among male street children. South African Journal of Psychology, 42, 71-81.
Liebenberg, L., Ungar, M., & Van de Vijver, F. R. R. (2012). Validation of the Child and Youth Resilience Measure-28 (CYRM-28) Among Canadian Youth with Complex Needs. Research on Social Work Practice, 22(2), 219-226.
Liebenberg, L., & Ungar, M. (2011). Ethical concerns regarding participation of marginalized youth in research. Bulletin of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, 59(1), 24–27.
Malindi, M. J., & Theron, L. C. (2011). Drawing on strengths: images of ecological contributions to street child resilience. In L. C. Theron, C. Mitchell, J. Stuart, & A. Smith (Eds.), Picturing research: Drawings as visual methodology (pp. 105-118). Rotterdam, the Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
Ungar, M. (2011). Community resilience for youth and families: Facilitative physical and social capital in contexts of adversity. Children and Youth Social Services Review, 33, 1742–1748.
Ungar, M. (2011). The social ecology of resilience. Addressing contextual and cultural ambiguity of a nascent construct. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81, 1-17.
Lee, T.Y., Kwong, W.M., Cheung, C.K., Ungar, M. & Cheung, M.Y.L. (2010). Children’s resilience-related beliefs as a predictor of positive child development in the face of adversities: Implications for interventions to enhance children’s quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 93(3), 437-453.
Ungar, M. (2010). Families as navigators and negotiators: Facilitating culturally and contextually specific expressions of resilience. Family Process, 49(3), 421–435.
Ungar, M. (2010). What Is Resilience Across Cultures and Contexts? Advances to the Theory of Positive Development among Individuals and Families under Stress. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 21(1), 1–16.
Theron, L. C., & Theron, A. M. C. (2010). A critical review of studies of South African youth resilience, 1990-2008. South African Journal of Science, 106(7/8). Retrieved from: http://www.sajs.co.za.
Guo-xiu, T., & Jianmei, J. (2009). Intervention in the growth of the students in an earthquake-stricken area from the resilience perspective.Journal of Child Health and Human Development, 4, 4-10.
Armstrong, M., Birnie-Lefcovich, S. & Ungar, M. (2005). Pathways between social support, quality of parenting and child resilience: A transactional model. Journal of Family and Child Studies, 14(2), 269-281.
Ungar, M. (2005). Pathways to resilience among children in Child Welfare, Corrections, Mental Health and Educational settings: Navigation and Negotiation. Child and Youth Care Forum 34(6), 423-444.
Ungar, M. (2005). Resilience among children in child welfare, corrections, mental health and educational settings: Recommendations for service.Child and Youth Care Forum, 34(6), 445-464.
Want to share? This report is available as a pdf download (opens in new window).
The following PDF downloads include further articles and presentation material from the International Pathways to Resilience project
(2011). Optentia Researchers at Conference in Colombia. Optentia News, 1(3). 8-9.
(2011). News from the International Pathways to Resilience Project. Optentia News, 1(4). 12-13.
Theron, L.C. (2011). Positive adaptation to poverty: black South African students’ tales of resilience.
Malindi, M.J., Theron, L.C., & Venter, A. (2011). Understanding youth resilience: findings and results from the International Pathways to Resilience project.
Theron, L. C. (2010). A critical review of South African youth resilience, 1990-2008. ADHASA workshop, Meyerton.
Theron, A. M. C., & Theron, L.C. (2010). A critical review of studies of south African youth resilience, 1990–2008.
Malindi, M.J., Theron, L.C. Drawing on strengths: images of ecological contributions to male street youth resilience.
Malindi, M.J., Theron, A. M. C., & Theron, L.C. Towards an African definition of resilience: a rural South African community’s view of resilient youth.
Optentia Research Programme. South African pathways to resilience.