Title

A Descriptive Examination of Protective Factors: Analysis of Male Completers of an Alternative Educational Program

Date of Award

2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling

First Advisor

Thelma J. Roberson

Advisor Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling

Abstract

A growing number of students, primarily at the high school level, are being assigned to alternative education programs for behavior management. These students, who engage in risky behaviors, may also come from high-risk environments, suggesting a possible correlation between these two factors that may increase the likelihood of unsuccessful life outcomes. Very little research has been conducted to determine the effectiveness of these programs after completion; however, because of the increasing prevalence of alternative education programs across the nation, questions have emerged as to whether or not students assigned to these programs will continue to engage in at-risk behaviors after program completion. Resiliency theory suggests that as the number of risk factors increase, so does the need for protective factors, is a positive outcome is to be obtained. This study presents a descriptive examination of protective factors demonstrated in the lives of male completers of a select CrossRoads high school alternative education program. Resiliency frameworks documented to exit within the structured environments of CrossRoads recognizes the importance of protective factors and offers students opportunities to understand how to make lasting positive choices. Data were collected from former students of the select alternative education program who met the study's criteria. Two groups were identified, differentiating between those completers who continued to exhibit at-risk behaviors from those who did not since leaving the alternative education program. The study used a mixed design research approach to compensate for small sample size by extending inquiry ranges from one method to another. The quantitative method applied five instruments to measure and compare levels of locus of control - Nowicki-Strickland Locus of Control Scale , perceived social support from family- Perceived Social Support - Family Scale , perceived social support from friends - Perceived Social Support - Friends Scale , stress - Life Experiences Survey , and ego identity - Ego Identity Scale , between the identified groups. The qualitative method applied a structured interview format to explore how and why the identified groups perceived the impact of protective factors on their lives. Results of this study, for the most part, indicated no statistical difference between groups in relation to their perceptions of protective factors, except when examining the relationship between perceived social support from friends and locus of control. The existence of a positive relationship between perceived social support from friends and internal locus of control was determined. The study offered a number of recommendations regarding identification of short and long term effects of resiliency components in the loves of at-risk students. Effective practices and strategies to meet the needs of theses students are offered, as well as the need for continued data collection and analysis to determine the long range effect of protective factors in the lives of students once identified as at-risk.