Life skills that enable resilience: a profile of adolescents from a coloured community in Kimberley
Jansen, Anthea Natalie Blanche
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Adolescent development is synonymous with physical and emotional changes and challenges. This development has previously been termed “storm and stress” to further illustrate these turmoils that adolescents experience. Adolescents generally growing up in a coloured community further experience hardships such as gangsterism, unemployment, overcrowding and substance abuse. The implementation of life skills could be seen as a way to possibly reduce engagement in risky behaviour and effectively face adversity. Life skills include an unlimited list of complex and integrated skills and assist in the participation of meaningful occupations. The main occupation of an adolescent is that of a learner. Within schools, life skills are part of the form of Life Orientation. Life Orientation includes subjects such as vocational guidance, religion and physical education and it addresses the most crucial life skills. Not only can life skills assist with positive adaptive behaviour amongst adolescents, but supportive environments also contribute to resilient behaviour. Resilience is being able to bounce back from challenges. Adolescents engaging in risky behaviour, having poor to little knowledge of life skills, not applying their life skills and negative environmental factors all influence their ability to be resilient. The researcher undertook this study to establish a profile of coloured adolescents and their knowledge and application of life skills that lead to resilient behavior. This was a descriptive study involving a convenience sampling method. The study took place at four predominantly coloured schools in Kimberley in the Northern Cape. Three hundred and forty eight (348) learners returned signed permission letters that allowed them to complete the questionnaire. The sample comprised of both males and females aged 16 to 18 years. Grade 12 learners were in the minority, while there were mostly grade 11 learners (45.4%) that participated in the study. Learners mostly came from coloured suburbs with 26.4% of learners coming from other suburbs within Kimberley. The profile of coloured adolescents presented with learners possessing knowledge and/or application of different life skills. Learners presented with better knowledge of life skills within communication skills (90.3%), time management (72.8%) and values (89.9%). When expected to apply life skills, problem-solving skills (90.9%) and values (81.1%) were applied best. Learners applied time management and decision making poorly of all life skills. The researcher further noted that application of communication skills and time management (whether high or low) were directly related to resilience. Knowledge of the other life skills (whether high or low) were related to resilience. The only exception was within values, where knowledge and application were both directly related to resilience. Only small numbers of learners engaged in risky behaviour in the form of drinking alcohol mostly. Risky behaviour is considered a negative influence on life skills. Learners portrayed hope, optimism and competence within individual environmental factors. However learners from the lower socio-economic backgrounds presented with less hope (70.7%) compared to other suburbs (84.2%). Within family factors security, stability and support were prominent factors and had a positive influence on life skills leading to resilience. Peer acceptance was important for most learners (95.4%). To conclude the researcher will use findings to develop community and school programmes that could assist in the implementation of life skills that would serve to support and empower adolescents. The important role that the occupational therapist could play in adolescent development is to ensure optimal engagement in occupations through life skills in order to develop as healthy adults.