Stories of resilience : supporting young women to thrive at secondary school

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Heaslip, Laraine
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Applied Practice
Unitec Institute of Technology
Mane, Jo
Reinders, Hayo
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
female students
secondary students
student mental health
secondary schools
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Heaslip, L. (2019). Stories of resilience : supporting young women to thrive at secondary school. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Practice). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: 1. In the context of my school environment, what are young women’s perceptions of how resilience is nurtured in their own school community? 2. What are young women’s perceptions of aspects of schooling that impact negatively on their resilience? 3. What factors promote resilience among young women? 4. How can my school respond to and support the nurturing of resilience in young women? ABSTRACT: Interest in resilience, as a response to widespread adolescent challenges, has gained prominence and traction in research. With a focus on developing resilience in young women in the secondary school context, this project addresses the growing concern around youth mental health in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Schools have a vital role in empowering young people to understand and protect their emotional health, and in fostering robust, supportive and positive connections with others whom young people can rely on when faced with adversity. The current study explored young women’s perspectives on resilience and aimed to identify ways schools can strengthen their own practices to support the development of resilience for young women in the secondary school setting. The research participants were Year 10 and 11 female students aged between 14 and 16 years, from a large, urban mainstream secondary school in Aotearoa, New Zealand. This age group is a crucial time for adolescents as they move into their senior schooling years and experience the pressures of academic expectations and personal development. The study drew on the tradition of practitioner research and embraced a holistic perspective and approach, which is gaining momentum and popularity in the field of youth wellbeing research. The methods used to collect qualitative data were interviews and a focus group. Thematic analysis was used to interpret the data. This study revealed that young women’s emotional resilience is multifaceted and complex. Findings show that a support group of people needs to be built around every young woman for them to feel resilient and thrive. Resilience was found to be influenced and shaped by relationships with others; teachers, friends and school health care professionals; trust; and a sense of belonging. Recommendations and suggestions of ways forward have been developed with direct reference to the school involved in this study. However, the findings and recommendations may be of interest to other secondary schools in Aotearoa, New Zealand that seek to strengthen their practices to support the development of resilience for young women in their school community.
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