Topics: Overcoming Adversity

JSY Topics: Overcoming Adversity

How does adversity affect the lives of young people?

The definition of adversity is, “A state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune.”

When it comes to adversity relative to today’s youth, support systems and resources need to be established in order to help them not only overcome, but change the trajectory of their life toward a more successful future.

According to America’s Promise Alliance (APA), 10 percent of youth in the U.S. (approx. 4 million young people) experience three or more adverse life experiences in adolescence. Keepinspiring.me describes six types of adversity:

  • Physical Adversity (handicaps, chronic pain, etc.)
  • Mental Adversity (mental anguish, depression, etc.)
  • Emotional Adversity (anger, low self-esteem, etc.)
  • Social Adversity (lack of social skills or disorders)
  • Spiritual Adversity (absence of faith, or not believing in the human spirit, power of community, or something as equally important)
  • Financial Adversity (lower-income, inner city)

More specific adversities among our youth are in relation to economic hardship, domestic or neighborhood violence, and parental incarceration.

Statistics show that under these circumstances, youth are less likely to complete high school, go to college or maintain a stable job. More quick facts:

  • Youth living in poverty are nearly six times more likely than their higher-income peers to experience multiple adversities
  • Youth who identify as Black or as Multi-racial/Other have the highest rates of experiencing three or more adversities
  • Parents that experience similar adversity, or if a young person’s mother did not graduate from high school, a young person’s opportunity to thrive is diminished further

How can we help youth overcome adversity?

The Search Institute, which has identified 40 positive supports and strengths that young people need to succeed, found that a caring, encouraging campus climate is just one of the 40 developmental assets a student needs in order to reach their highest potential. A few other essential assets identified in the study are: family support; positive family communication; support from other adult relationships (non-parent adults); and parent involvement in schooling.

The APA recommends the following tactics that will provide the level of support required to help youth overcome adversity:

  • Engage schools as a first line of support – Schools need to invest in professional development and pre-service training on the impact of adverse life experiences on educational outcomes, career preparation, and emotional well-being.

Learn more about Just Say YES Professional Development Programs here.

  • Increase and strengthen opportunities for re-engagement for young people knocked off positive pathways – Schools need to provide programming that reach at-risk youth on campus to prevent dropout, or have accessible career pathway programs for young people to acquire a diploma, GED and/or post-secondary credential.

Learn more about the Just Say YES Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Programs here.