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Easier Said Than Done: Shifting From a Risk to a Resiliency Paradigm

NCJ Number
Reaching Today’s Youth Volume: 3 Issue: 4 Dated: Summer 1999 Pages: 11-14
Sybil Wolin
Date Published
4 pages
This article identifies some of the difficulties in shifting from a treatment paradigm that focuses on the problems that place a youth at risk of delinquency to a paradigm that focuses on the strengths a youth has developed to handle problems; suggestions are offered for addressing these difficulties.
A "paradigm" is "a map inlaid in the mind which determines the way you see the world." Paradigms are conditioned by inborn temperament, upbringing, family, friends, colleagues, schooling, and work environment. As such, paradigms are rarely scrutinized or questioned. For a person to change mindset and behavior from a "risk" paradigm to a "resiliency" paradigm requires hard work and a belief in the importance and value of the change. For the resiliency paradigm to be accepted requires the unlikely event that people will stop believing that the children and youth they see in their offices, classrooms, and agencies each day have been severely damaged by the hardship they face. Instead, they will begin thinking that the damage in these children and youth is not as significant as their strengths and resources that had previously been ignored. The latter "Challenge Model" (resiliency paradigm) does not require down- playing or overlooking the deleterious effects of hardship. It does, however, add another dimension to the risk story. In the Challenge Model, hardship is not only destructive, but is also an opportunity. Youths' troubles challenge them to experiment and respond actively and creatively. Their pre-emptive responses, repeated over time, become incorporated into the self as lasting resiliencies. The change to the resiliency paradigm and the Challenge Model is difficult for many, because they have the strong belief that abusive and dysfunctional conditions within and surrounding youth necessarily deprive them of any of the resources needed to develop positive behaviors and attitudes. A change in paradigms occurs as practitioners with youth begin to recognize that coping with adversity produces resources that can become the foundation for the development of responsible and uniquely valuable behaviors and life directions. 3 references