Contextual Factors Related to School Engagement and Resilience: A Study of Canadian Youth with Complex Needs

Michael Ungar, Linda Liebenberg


A study was conducted to assess risk, resilience and service use factors, including school engagement, among 497 13-21 year olds who were users of multiple services such as child welfare, mental health, youth corrections, outreach services for homeless youth, and, when in school, special educational services available outside the classroom. As hypothesized, factors associated with individual, relational and community
aspects of resilience like cultural adherence and fair treatment in one's community were more strongly related to school engagement than individual or relational (family) factors.
However, higher rates of service use among youth with complex needs did not result in higher levels of school engagement as was expected. A discussion is included of the role service providers play encouraging youth to engage at school as well as the possibility that service providers who coerce youth to attend school may inadvertently cause young people to resist school attendance and disengage.

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