Special Articles / L. Vini, V. Indiramma, M. Vranda / Scientific Writing and Publishing in Social Work
The numbers of institutions for children in need of care and protection have increased considerably over the years. Various psychosocial factors contribute to the institutionalization of children in residential care. The experience of growing up in an institution varies from child to child depending on the perception and kind of treatment they receive from care providers while in the institution. Numerous studies have reported positive and negative impact of long term institutionalisation on a child’s well-being. Yet the fact remains that institutionalisation cannot be washed away. Institutionalised children are considered as highly deprived of a family environment required for their development in society.
These children are left helpless, abandoned, neglected due to social, economic and personal reasons by the parents/caregivers. Early deprivation of parental care, love, affection, warmth, security, acceptance and discipline during childhood disrupts their normal socio-emotional development. So it becomes necessary to know whether institutionalised children who are devoid of family life with the emotional warmth grow up normally and acquire appropriate skills for pro social behaviour and how well they are able to cope with themselves and adjust to the demands of the society. The current study aims at imparting life skills training to the adolescents living in Save Our Soul (SOS) village of Bangalore City. The sample consisted of 2, randomly selected children residing in SOS Children’s Village, a Non-Government Organisation which provides long term care and protection to orphaned and abandoned children in Bangalore City. The life skills assessment scale developed by Vranda, M, N, (2009) was used to assess the impact of life skills intervention on adolescents. The results of the study show that there was overall improvement in the life skills of adolescents in SOS village after the intervention.
Adolescence is a challenging transitional period for many young people due to going through physical, cognitive, emotional and social changes during this life stage. The beginning of adolescence is marked by puberty where changes in biological functions lead to an adult sized body and sexual maturation. It is also a period of “stress and strain” for many adolescents. Though, biological forces play a significant role in the physical changes that take place during the transition period from childhood to adulthood, a combination of biological, psychological and social forces influence an adolescent’s development. In this transition period adolescents face problems in certain areas of life such as parent – child conflicts, risk taking behaviours and mood changes. If these issues are not resolved, the individual suffers role diffusion or have negative identity which results in mismatched abilities and desires, directionless and unpreparedness for the psychological challenges of adulthood (Berk, 2007).
It is known that there remains a significant gap between adolescents having accurate information and its translation into behaviour. Enhancement of skills is a key to facilitate this process of transforming information into healthy behaviour. Research studies show that various psychosocial factors and life skills deficits are the mediating factors resulting in behavioural, psychological and health related problems among adolescents (Keddie, 1992; Plotnick, 1992). These factors are far more severe among those children and adolescents who are under the care and protection of institutions (Vranda, 2009).
There are many factors which lead to poor life skills, low self-esteem and maladjustment among the children in institutions due to family deprivation. The study conducted on institutionalised children revealed that children raised in institutions differ from children brought up in families in every aspect of life. This is because of wide difference in family and institutional environment. The institution provides structured environment and strict routines to children. This kind of situation allows less variation in behaviour and activity and suppresses the freedom and individuality of the children and adolescents. The lack of privacy in the institutions compared to family setting has multiple ramifications on the child’s development affecting his/her ability to adjust to the life situations. It is more so with the adolescents.
Absence of parents due to separation can lead to lack of parental role models in learning social skills such as cooperation, negotiation and compromising skills (Vranda, 2009). Jose (2008) in his study on few psychosocial aspects such as insecurity, self-esteem and adjustment problems among 252 adolescents in institutionalised and 252 adolescents from socially and economically poor families but who are in parental care found that institutionalised children significantly differed from those who are in parental care. Higher insecurity, lower self-esteem, emotional adjustment problems, unsatisfactory social, emotional and educational adjustment are common among institutionalised children (Hunshal and Goankar, 2008). Low achievement motivation, hopelessness, pessimistic attitude towards their life (Stanley and Ruth, 2000), risk taking behaviours and negative peer influences are found to be common among youth living either in group homes or institutions (Altshuler & Poertner, 2002).
Han and Choi (2006) examined loneliness and attribution styles in interpersonal relations of the two groups of institutionalized adolescents who live in welfare facilities and age-mates from middle class backgrounds. The results demonstrated that the institutionalised adolescents tend to show higher levels of loneliness than the home-reared group. In addition, the former group displays a non-self-serving cognitive style of attributing failures in social situations to more stable and global causes than the latter. A regression analysis showed that the institutionalised adolescents’ attribution of failure to global reasons and the home-reared adolescents’ attribution of success to unstable reasons can predict loneliness.
The literature review clearly indicates that institutionalised children have psychological problems and social skills deficits compared to those children who are brought up in family atmosphere. It is imperative that these children need to be equipped for independent living. Moreover, the children and adolescents living in institutions are often unprepared for independent living and fail to imbibe life skills for successful family and community living (Vranda, 2009). Jacquleen and Parthasarathy (2009) found in their study that child care personnel are more concerned and occupied with administrative needs than enhancing psychosocial competencies or skills or self-efficacy of these children. Enhancing these skills has been given the least priority.
Over the last decade there has been an increased interest among mental health professionals in the area of research in life skills. Life skills are defined as ‘abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enables individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life’ (WHO, 1993). Life skills are innumerable, with some being specific to certain risk situations and others being of a generic nature. Further, the life skills are summarized into five sets of ten generic life skills, based on the various developmental theories and interventional studies from various sources. These skills include decision-making, problem solving, empathy, self-awareness, communication, interpersonal relationship, coping with emotions, coping with stress, creative thinking and critical thinking. Mallon (1996) reports that children and adolescents who are living in institutional care should be given basic age appropriate life skills training in order to help them to develop their self-esteem, self-sufficiency to deal with demands and challenges of life. Hence, the current study aims towards imparting life skills training to the adolescents living in SOS village of Bangalore.
Method and Materials
The sample consisted of 20, randomly selected children of both genders, aged between 13 to 16 years, residing in Save Our Soul Village (SOS) - a Non-Government Organisation which provides long term care to orphaned and abandoned children in Bangalore City.
Socio Demographic Profile: was developed by the researchers for use in the present study which covered details of age, education, religion, class in which they are studying, duration of stay, and reasons for institutionalisation .
Life Skills Assessment Scale (Vranda, 2009): The psychosocial competencies and life skills among the adolescents were assessed using a 5-point Likert scale to measure life skills. The scale consisted of 115 items which assess the life skills of adolescents on ten domains such as decision making, problem solving, empathy, self-awareness, interpersonal relationship skills, communication skills, coping with stress, coping with emotions, creative thinking and critical thinking. The internal consistency co-efficient alpha for the overall scale was 0.94. The test-retest reliability co-efficient ranged from 0.70 to 0.95 and overall reliability co-efficient was 0.96 indicated high degree of temporal stability of the scale.
The researcher prepared the Life Skills Intervention package after reviewing existing modules and also based on the areas identified by the caregivers. The intervention package was given to experts working in the field of life skills for content validation. Based on the feedback from the experts the package was finalised. The main intervention study was conducted on 20 participants for the period of one week. The package consisted of various life skills building activities using group activities, role play, brainstorming sessions, and discussions. The pre assessment (P0) was done before the Life Skills Intervention. Post-test (P1) was done after one week of intervention. Post-post assessment (P2) was done after one month of intervention to see the acquisition and retention of life skills over a period time among the participants.
Descriptive statistics such as mean and standard deviation were used to describe the data. Paired ‘t’ test was computed to compare the mean difference in life skills before and after the life skills intervention programme.
The socio-demographic profile (Table 1) revealed that 55% of the respondents were in the age group of 15-16 years. The age of the students ranged from 13-16 years. 65 % of the participants were boys and majority 90% belonged to Hindu religion. 45% of the participants were studying in 8th standard. The reasons for institutionalisation of children were due to single parent, loss of parents, born out of wedlock, abandonment and poverty.
Table 3 shows the paired ‘t’ test before and after life skills intervention on all the domains of life skills scale. The results showed significant gain in the life skills of subjects immediately after the intervention after one week on the domains of problem solving (P<0.001), communication skills (P<0.01), interpersonal relationship skills ( P<0.01), Empathy ( P<0.05), self-awareness ( P<0.05) and critical thinking skills ( P<0.01). Further the gain in life skills between post assessment 1 and post – post assessment 2 significant on only two domains: communication skills (P<0.001), and critical thinking skills (P<0.01). However, the retention of life skills of the subjects after one month of intervention found on decision making (P<0.05) and self-awareness (P<0.05).
The family is the oldest form of institution in the history of mankind. It plays a significant role in the personality development and socialisation of children at different developmental stages. Any major disturbance in the functioning of the family can have adverse effects on children’s psychosocial functioning. The disruptions suffered by adolescents who are in the care and protection of institutions interrupt the development of knowledge and skills they need for adjustment. The current study aimed at imparting life skills training to the adolescents living in care and protection of SOS village. This study found that the majority of the children were institutionalised due to the difficulty in child rearing by a single parent. Zem-Mascarenhas and Dupas (2001) found that institutionalisation occurs due to either parental abandonment and rejection or legal decisions as a measure of child protection.
With regard to the effect of the Life Skills Intervention Program it was found that in the present research there was overall significant improvement in the form of acquisition and retention of life skills among the participants after the intervention. With regard to acquisition and retention of life skills on the various domains of the life skills scale, it was found that there was significant improvement in acquisition of life skills in immediate post condition after one week in problem solving, communication, interpersonal relationships, empathy, self-awareness, and critical thinking skills. However, retention of the skills is found on the domains of communication skills and critical thinking skills which are statistically significant. The improvement in life skills can be seen immediately within the one week of intervention compared to post-post intervention. It shows the need for continuity of the program over a period of time to assess the acquisition of life skills. WHO (1994) states that life skills intervention should have continuity and sequence over time to bring behavioural changes over a period of time through application in varied situations (WHO, 1994). In the current study, there was significant gain in most of the skills of adolescents immediately after the intervention program. It is necessary that the children have an environment to apply the life skills in everyday life situations. The caregivers play a pivotal role in providing such environment to the children so that they can practice the life skills in various situations.
Apinutavech et al (2009) studied the effectiveness of group activities designed to enhance the self-esteem of female adolescents aged 12-18 years from two groups. The experimental group participated in numerous activities designed to improve their self-esteem. The activities were conducted over 4 sessions of 2-3 hours duration per session. Before the intervention, neither group showed any difference in its general characteristics including its self- esteem mean scores. Immediately after the intervention and, 4 weeks later, the experimental group had significantly higher self-esteem compared to control group. The research results indicate that the self-esteem level among adolescents could be developed, especially amongst those adolescents in foster homes. Thus related organisations should conduct self-esteem enhancing activities for adolescents in order to strengthen necessary life skills including spiritual health, which are the prerequisites for success in later life.
Nguyen, Tina & DePaul (2002) in their study identified adolescents that currently had deficits in social skills and examined the effects of training social skills to these adolescents. An experimental design was implemented using an adolescent urban sample to assess the effects of social skills training. The intervention lasted seven weeks and involved ratings from multiple sources at baseline and after the intervention. Positive reinforcement was designed as part of the intervention to ensure generalisation and maintenance of treatment effects. Significant differences were found in student perceived self-control and increased in self-esteem in socially related issues.
The current study has shown effectiveness of life skills intervention program on children in the care and protection of SOS village. However, the current study has its limitations as the intervention was done with smaller sample over short period of time. Hence, longitudinal studies need to be conducted to assess the acquisition of and application of skills by children in varied situations.
The children and adolescents in institutional care are at risk of mental health problems. Hence effort should be aimed at optimising their mental, physical and spiritual well-being through life skills training. Failure to provide these children with opportunities to achieve productive and meaningful lives has devastating individual and societal consequences. The study results could be used to sensitise the concerned authorities regarding the need for integrating the life skills training programme for children and adolescents in institutions. Social work practice emphasises and promotes preventive and rehabilitative interventions that focus on child health, education, social welfare and related facilities to achieve adjustment in their life situations. Trained social workers are important professionals involved in the care of children. Social workers have the potential to improve the life skills and adjustment among adolescents through a strength based approach at individual, family and institutional levels. Social workers also have a major role to play in the advocacy of this sector and the potential to positively improve institutional care and consequently the children’s lives that reside in them.
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