This research examined resilience processes in context through a narrative case study of Tasha, a young African-American woman who grew up in a poverty-ridden area of a mid-sized city in the Southeast. Personal and external data are analyzed and interpreted in terms of contextually defined themes of adversity (i.e., intersectionality of social identities, lack of attachment to her primary caregiver, and teenage pregnancy); adaptation (i.e., high school graduation, career goal-setting, commitment to her children, and “street” competence); and, protective processes (i.e., individual attributes, natural mentors, and extended family support). The importance of external sources of support and Tasha as an active agent in her development is highlighted. Research and practical implications are discussed.
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The author would like to thank Tasha for her cooperation and contributions throughout the study. I am a better person and teacher for having worked with kids like Tasha. The author also wishes to thank Tom Martinek, Christy Greenleaf, Diane Gill, Kelly McOmber, Dr. Sellers, and the reviewers for their invaluable feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.
Interviews with Tasha and Focus Group Interview
Prior to each interview, Tasha was informed of the purpose of the studies and of requirements for involvement. Informed consent was granted by her mother or by Tasha herself, upon reaching the age of 18. All interviews were conducted in a conference room in the same building and on the same floor that Project Effort was held. Tasha had attended leadership orientation sessions and meetings for Project Effort in this room so it was a familiar and comfortable location.
Before the interviews, the researcher asked permission to audiotape and explained issues regarding confidentiality and the need to use a pseudonym for identification. The participant then chose a pseudonym for the interviews. In the first three individual interviews and the focus group interview, she chose the name Nautica. Subsequently, she chose the name “Tasha,” which was the name used for this paper. All interviews were transcribed verbatim.
During the final member check interview, the researcher: (a) explained what was meant by specific terms (e.g., resilience, adaptation, competence, case study) in the literature; (b) read through each period of Tasha’s journey (i.e., grade school, middle school, high school, post-high school) separately with Tasha and sought clarification and/or necessary revisions; and, (c) read through the main themes from external sources and case interpretation. Great care was taken to insure the accuracy of the case. At all points of the reading, Tasha was actively involved in the process and changes were made according to her suggestions. For example, she clarified her mother’s role during early childhood and explained her perceptions of her mother as a “drunk.”
Individual Interview with Tasha’s Mother
Tasha’s mother was interviewed in her home at a convenient time for her and the researcher. Informed consent and permission to audiotape were granted. Her mother was asked to consider and discuss important factors in Tasha’s program involvement, her perception of changes in Tasha’s behavior over time, and Tasha’s level of program commitment.
Program Leader Profiles
Informed consent was obtained from two program leaders, Devin and Jerry. Each leader was asked to complete a written profile for seven “veteran” program participants. They did this on their own time and at their own pace. The profiles included information regarding program leaders’ perceptions of: (a) factors most important to the participant; (b) participant’s program commitment; (c) participant’s change over years of involvement; (d) participant’s likes and dislikes about the program; (e) participant’s struggles; (f) examples of transfer of program values/goals outside the gym; (g) reasons why the participant stays with the program; and, (h) what the program offers the participant.
Anecdotal data resulted from informal data collection through conversations and observations. For example, Tasha would often come into my office or Jerry’s and “chat” with us. We also have met for lunch and have gone to events with Tasha and her kids several times. Other anecdotal data resulted from conversations with Tasha’s school counselor, Dr. Sellers. The most recent discussion occurred in Summer, 2005 when Dr. Sellers offered her general perceptions of Tasha and her school experiences. The author then outlined each section of the case study results and asked Dr. Sellers for feedback. Dr. Sellers confirmed that the findings were appropriate and, in some instances, provided some examples of Tasha’s behavior in school for clarification.
Appendix B—Background Information
Project Effort was developed by a university professor (i.e., Jerry) who has been the director of the program and has served as a staff member in various parts of the program for its entire 10-year existence. Jerry is also a university faculty member. Project Effort initially began as an elementary sports club teaching Hellison’s (1995) responsibility goals (i.e., respect for others, effort and participation, self-direction, caring for and helping others, using the goals outside the gym) through participation in sport and physical activity. The program also includes mentoring, teacher workshops, and family nights to help participants transfer their program involvement and the responsibility goals to other contexts. In an effort to stay with participants over time, the program expanded to include sports clubs at the elementary and middle school levels and a high school Youth Leader Corps (YLC) in which veteran participants run their own sports clubs one day a week for younger children from the community.
In addition to being the researcher and author of this case study, I have served in multiple capacities as a staff member in Project Effort over the course of seven years. I began involvement as a graduate student, and served as a mentor, program instructor, program evaluator, and program leader. I was extensively involved in the development of the Youth Leader Corps and examined program commitment in my research. I have worked with Tasha in different capacities over the course of seven years. In line with the work of Halpern (Moore 2005) and Cutforth and Puckett (1999), I found that my familiarity with Tasha and Project Effort helped in establishing rapport, reducing the likelihood of discomfort, developing trust, and increasing the quality of data. It also aided in the development of follow-up questions and prompts as the researcher had knowledge of and/or experience within the specific contexts of interest. Finally, knowing and interacting with Tasha in informal situations (e.g., conversations over dinner and in my office) across the years, watching her interact with program leader Jerry and her mother, and past discussions with her school counselor have all contributed to a greater understanding of Tasha’s experiences in multiple contexts.
Multiple methods were used to guard against bias in data collection, analysis, and interpretation. A thorough member check was completed with Tasha. In addition, program leader Jerry and an outside researcher who had knowledge about Project Effort but had never worked as a staff member provided feedback on data interpretation and this paper. Tasha’s school counselor also validated the final themes presented in the paper.
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Schilling, T.A. An Examination of Resilience Processes in Context: The Case of Tasha. Urban Rev 40, 296–316 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-007-0080-8
- Youth development
- After-school programs
- At-risk youth