CoVitality Prevention and Intervention Strategies…

The Contribution of Social Emotional Assessment to Student Resilience and Well-being

The Social Emotional Health Surveys provide information about students’ current, balanced psychological and social wellness. School student care teams use this information to monitor students’ overall health and wellness as it relates building a positive, caring, and supportive school climate. By providing students the opportunity to comment on their current life experiences, care teams are also better able to rapidly engage in early prevention efforts. We presume that each school and its mental health professionals employ universal and selected strategies designed to foster student wellness.

In our work with school districts that have used the SEHS-Secondary, natural questions are asked, “Now that we have information about the students’ social emotional health, what now?” “Which of the 12 covitality components should we target for prevention and intervention services?” “Is some combination(s) of student covitality strengths better than others to prevent behaviors and psychosocial risk?”

The quick answer to these questions is that years of risk and resilience research has not identified specific patterns of developmental assets that standout from other patterns. As an aid to interpret and use the results of the SEHS-S, we (Lenzi, Dougherty, Furlong, Sharkey, & Dowdy, 2015)[1] examined how different configurations of SEHS-S psychological and social assets were associated with protective effects of lower levels of youth involvement in risk behaviors (tobacco and alcohol use) and the development of emotional problems (depressive feelings and suicidal thoughts).  

The Lenzi et al. (2015) study examined the association between quantity, variety, and configuration of developmental assets with risk behaviors (tobacco and alcohol use) and developing emotional problems (depressive feelings and suicidal thoughts).  A sample of 12,040 California high school students completed surveys investigating youth health and risk behaviors, and developmental assets. Analyses showed that adolescents reporting a higher quantity of assets, and possessing them in multiple domains, had a lower likelihood of experiencing behavioral and emotional problems. The negative association between developmental assets and negative outcomes was more consistent when the quantity and variety of assets were taken into account simultaneously. A sufficient amount of strengths, in an adequate number of different domains, seems to provide the strongest protection against negative developmental outcomes.

What do the results of the Lenzi et al. (2015) study mean in practical terms?          

Implementing interventions that seek to enhance the 12 SEHS-S assets is almost never feasible in most school settings; however, the Lenzi et al. (2015) study suggests that this is unnecessary. A more parsimonious approach can be taken. Interventions aimed at promoting four different SEHS-S components from at least two different domains (e.g., family and peer support, assets included in the belief in others domain; self-awareness and self-efficacy, assets included in the belief in self domain) might be effective in protecting adolescents from a wide range of negative developmental outcomes. This configuration would promote a number of different assets and a variety of skills that, according to our results, would achieve the first tipping point to protect youths from a range of emotional and behavioral problems. 

Although additional research is needed, we suggest an approach to implement positive youth development strategies and programs that select from among the 12 SEHS-S individual and social assets… AND consider how the assets are balance across the four SEHS-S domains.  That is, rather than fostering assets in a single domain all at once (e.g., gratitude, zest, and optimism from Engaged Living), it is suggested to foster assets across domains (e.g., persistence, peer support, and gratitude). In subsequent years, strategies can be expanded to include assets for other domains (e.g., empathy).  Finally, which assets and which domains are targeted by a school can reflect local needs, interests, and values.

To support ongoing service options and to provoke consideration of other options we provide this list of resources organized by the 12 components of the CoVitality model.  Links to brief information articles and descriptions of school/classroom activities are provided. You will note that a key resource is the Center for Greater Good located at the University of California Berkeley. Another key resource in the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). The last section of this resources list provides links to its comprehensive review of programs/curriculums that could foster the development of Covitality related mindsets. 

Of course, implementing programs/curriculums outside of a comprehensive school-based student wellness plan diminishes their potential effectiveness.  When your school needs to engage in district or school-level system planning, the following resources offer support for these efforts.

[1] Lenzi, M., Dougherty, D., Furlong, M. J., Dowdy, E., & Sharkey, J. D. (2015). The configuration protective model: Factors associated with adolescent behavioral and emotional problems. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 38, 49–59.

© Project Covitality 2016