Adolescent problems, perspectives and school-based helping

Branwhite, Tony

Education
March 1996

Thesis or dissertation


Rights
© 1996 Tony Branwhite. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
Abstract

This study describes a two-phase research project focused on English adolescents in full-time education, which set out to answer five main questions. These asked how secondary school students perceived themselves, how they perceived the helping resources of their school, what were their preferences in helping situations, what was their experience of teacher support, and how far professional contact was a threat to their self-esteem.

The mixed-sex samples involved were each composed of equal numbers of males and females. In the first phase of the enquiry, a multiple-choice questionnaire was administered to a stratified random sample of 540 students of 13-15 years old from three urban and three rural secondary schools. In the second phase, 60 students from a seventh suburban secondary school were exposed to two contrasting treatment conditions. This experiment was set up to test the robustness of the threat-to-self-esteem hypothesis amongst adolescent help-seekers in a real-world context.

In the survey phase, most students indicated that they had few personal problems, and were proactive in dealing with those that existed. However, one third or more reported that, in order of importance, they would be likely to need help with their career, schoolwork, relationships, money, and their feelings. Helping resources were most likely to be selected on the basis of established relationships, and favoured friends or parents over teachers or other professional helpers. Remote sources of assistance, such as a national telephone helpline, were very poorly supported as an initial response to personal problems.

The majority of adolescents preferred to seek help for themselves, as opposed to having it arranged by parents, friends, or teachers. Substantial support emerged for a same-sex helper, and for one-to-one meetings, rather than group or telephone support. There was also a frequent adolescent requirement for helper suggestions. For the minority of students who actually had received teacher support, high levels of satisfaction and problem resolution were recorded. Yet despite generally positive outcomes, the survey findings nonetheless called into question certain conventional counselling practices.

The experimental phase exposed self-selecting age and sex-matched students to either a personal-emphasis or an educational-emphasis treatment of equal duration, each incorporating direct before-and-after measures of self esteem. No significant differences between pre- and post-treatment self-esteem scores were obtained, indicating that no threat to student self-esteem was generated by either treatment. This outcome was interpreted as having implications for the utility of the threat-to-self-esteem hypothesis for adolescent help-seekers in the context of their schools.

Publisher
Department of Education Studies, The University of Hull
Grant number
uk.bl.ethos.321058
Qualification level
Doctoral
Qualification name
PhD
Language
English
Extent
17 MB
Identifier
hull:16864
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