Examining relationships between supportive resources and psychological well-being at a single-gender school



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Guided by the positive youth development (PYD) framework and the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, this dissertation project involved the performance of two studies that were designed to explore the multifaceted aspects of personal and environmental sources of support, positive emotions, stress, depressive symptoms, and resilience. Examined in Study I was the question of whether one's positivity would differentiate levels of personal and environmental resources. Examined in Study II were the association, if any, between stress and resilience on depressive symptoms and whether resilience would exhibit a moderating effect of stress on depressive symptoms. Multivariate analysis of covariance and hierarchical multiple regression were used to test the different models in these studies. A sample of 510 students at an all-girl public middle and high school completed the survey (75% response rate). Results showed that (a) the different categories of positivity distinguished levels of personal and environmental resources, (b) stress had a significant positive direct effect on depressive symptoms, (c) resilience had a significant negative direct effect on depressive symptoms, and (d) the interaction between stress and resilience had a significant buffering effect on depressive symptoms. While adolescence is a challenging time in particular for girls, findings from the present study support PYD and the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions as advantageous frameworks for developing empirically based interventions. Strategies that increase students' positive emotions in schools, which in turn broaden their thinking, coping, and social interactions, would be efficacious. Further, the results from Study II suggest that students with higher levels of resiliency were protected from the impact of stress, thus potentially explaining their lower scores for depressive symptoms compared to those students with lower levels of reported resilience. This supports the significant role of individual resiliency as a personal resource against depressive symptoms when experiencing higher levels of stress. Given the seriousness of declining psychological well-being in young girls as a major public health concern, coupled with the compounding effects later into life, programs that provide opportunities for young girls to cultivated resiliency will be, theoretically, highly effective.