The contribution of school experience to students' resilience following a terror‐related homicide


Source: International Journal of Psychology 


Schools have a significant effect on students' development, and serve as important social agencies for interventions for students facing disasters. However, little is known about the effect of students' school experience itself on their resilience when facing extreme negative events. The present study focused on students who were exposed to terror‐related homicide with the aim of investigating the contribution of school climate resources to their resilience. Since resilience is associated not only with fewer negative outcomes, but also with positive change, the contribution of schools was studied as both inhibiting post‐traumatic stress symptoms (PTS) and enhancing post‐traumatic growth (PTG). A mixed‐methods research design was used. The participants included 117 (52% girls) high school students (mean age = 14.54; SD = 1.49). Twenty‐five of them were interviewed in addition to responding to the research questionnaires. Different aspects of the school climate were found to be associated with students' PTS and PTG, yielding two overarched factors explaining the school's role as a protective resource: sheltering and supporting. The former is associated with fewer PTS and the latter with higher PTG. The use of different resources for different forms of resilience is discussed.


The present study may make an important contribution to both theory and practice. From a theoretical point of view, the findings shed light on the role of school resources for understanding students’ resilience when facing disaster events. It also contributes to the theoretical discussion on the connection between PTG and PTS and sheds light on the distinctive resources that relate to each.

From a practical point of view, rather than seeing the school as a context for intervention, the present study suggests empirical evidence for the role of being in school when facing disaster and the different factors in the school climate that are associated with students’ resilience. While previous studies point to the importance of the school climate for understanding the school context in students’ behaviour and for interventions, the present study also suggests looking at the school climate itself as a resource for change and development. When designing interventions targeted toward supporting students who face a disaster, their environment, and their school environment in particular, should be taken into account for providing students with resources for successful change.

Updated: Dec. 11, 2019