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Routes to Resilience: Mechanisms of Healthy Development in Minority Adolescents from High-Risk Urban Neighborhoods

  • Author(s): Dill, LeConte Jeanine
  • Advisor(s): Ozer, Emily
  • et al.
Abstract

This study examines how minority adolescents actively work to stay safe and to improve their life chances within urban neighborhoods marked by high rates of crime, violence, and physical disorder. Often, these youth are seen as resilient by others; however, the work that goes into building resilience is often overlooked. This study provides a deeper understanding of the ongoing processes of resilience that occur over the course of adolescence. Ethnographic approaches and participatory narrative analyses reveal that urban minority adolescents make strategic choices about where they will spend their time and the relationships they invest in, and they develop an internal set of beliefs about faith. Building on empirical studies examining adolescents' resilience in their family and school settings, these results detail how youth strategically avoid unsafe spaces and people and seek out safe spaces and people within their neighborhoods. Once young people find a safe space, such as a neighborhood youth center, they seek out adult mentors there who will help them access educational and professional opportunities. The relationships that develop in safe spaces help to provide social mobility for the youth. Despite these efforts, youth are routinely exposed to violence, stress, and trauma. In these situations, youth harness spiritual beliefs and practices that shore them up when all else fails. These strategies work together to magnify the effect of resilience in the lives of urban minority adolescents. This study's findings have implications for research and practice related to the mechanisms of positive youth development. Youth's own narratives of resilience add rich detail to this work. Further interdisciplinary inquiry into the external and internal factors at play in the processes of resilience can reinforce the linkages between youth development, neighborhood ecology, and public health.

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