Home' Independence : Independence Vol 35 No 1 May 2010 Contents Independence Vol 35 No 1 May 10 27
examined more closely what educational
outcomes and experiences in high school
were related to positive functioning
over the transition to adulthood
(O’Connor et al, in preparation).
When investigating this question we
also took personality into account, as
personality is related to both positive
development and academic success.
We found that although academic
achievement during Year 12 was
important (with higher tertiary entrance
scores predicting better outcomes),
how students felt about school was
more strongly associated with their
later wellbeing. Hence, once again,
the results clearly demonstrated the
strong relationship between feelings of
connectedness or bonding to school and
successful development at 19 to 20 years.
We were also able to gain more insight
into specifically what aspects of school
bonding are most strongly associated
with healthy development. We found
that strong relationships with teachers
(eg feeling that teachers treated them
fairly in class and listened to what they
had to say), and perceiving school as a
place where they were respected and had
a voice, were particularly relevant to
students’ later wellbeing.
Strong attachments to school during
adolescence might promote later
wellbeing by helping young people to
develop their identity and trust in others,
making it possible for them to explore
their environment and adapt well to
change. Young people who feel connected
to school are also more likely to take on
board the messages that schools send
about appropriate conduct, which can
help them to avoid risky behaviours
like substance misuse (Maddox & Prinz
Promoting school bonding
Schools can promote feelings of
connectedness by giving students
opportunities to be involved with school
in meaningful ways, and by helping
students to develop the skills needed
to make involvement a rewarding
experience. This requires a whole-school
approach to promoting wellbeing.
Strong school leadership and a clear
message about the importance of the
school community also appear to play
an important role. Teachers can also
promote student involvement at the
classroom level, such as by involving
students in decisions that affect them.
Teachers’ investments in developing
positive relationships with students are
also extremely important.
The Act-Belong-Commit campaign,
which has been successfully implemented
in schools in Western Australia and in
Toorak College in Victoria (see following
article), provides an example of a whole
school, evidence-based approach to
developing stronger school communities
by promoting the involvement of
students, parents and staff. It aims to
proactively address growing mental health
concerns by encouraging individuals to
adopt behaviours that build resilience,
strengthen wellbeing and foster positive
KidsMatter is another example of
an evidence-based, whole-school
initiative aimed at promoting feelings
of connectedness and belonging in
Australian school communities. Research
evidence has shown the efficacy of this
program in promoting positive outcomes
such as reduced mental health difficulties
and increased wellbeing.
Meredith O’Connor’s research on emerging
adulthood was supervised by Professor
Ann Sanson and Associate Professor Erica
The Australian Temperament Project is a joint
project between the Australian Institute of
Family Studies, The University of Melbourne,
The Royal Children’s Hospital (Melbourne)
and Deakin University. The project is led and
managed by the Australian Institute of Family
Studies, and is also supported by an Australian
Research Council grant.
Arnett, J. (2000) Emerging adulthood: A theory
of development from the late teens through the
twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5):469-480.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007) Lifetime
marriage and divorce trends. Australian Social
Trends. ABS series 4102.0.
Hawkins, M., Letcher, P., Sanson, A., Smart,
D. and Toumbourou, J. (2009) Positive
development in emerging adulthood. Australian
Journal of Psychology, 61(2):89-99 .
Maddox, S. and Prinz, R. (2003) School
bonding in children and adolescents:
Conceptualisation, assessment, and
associated variables. Clinical Child and
Family Psychology Review, 6(1):31-49.
O’Connor, M., Sanson, A. and Frydenberg, E.
(2009) The relationship between school bonding
in late adolescence and successful adaptation
during the transition to adulthood. Paper
presented at the Inaugural Educational Theory
to Practice Conference, Melbourne.
O’Connor, M., Sanson, A. and Frydenberg,
E. (In preparation) The relationship between
positive development during the transition to
adulthood and temperament, personality, and
educational outcomes. In Frydenberg, E. and
Reevy, G. (eds), Personality, stress, and coping:
Implications for education (Vol VI).
Smart, D. and Sanson, A. (2005) What is life like
for young Australians today, and how well are
they faring? Family Matters, 70:46-53 .
Strong school leadership and a clear message
about the importance of the school community
appear to play an important role in school
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