Development of school connectedness as a component of an injury prevention program for early adolescents

Chapman, Rebekah Louise (2013) Development of school connectedness as a component of an injury prevention program for early adolescents. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


The current program of research addresses the need for multi-level programs to target the major increase in injury rates that occurs throughout adolescence. Specifically, it involves the investigation of school connectedness as a protective factor for adolescent injury, and the development of school connectedness as a component of an injury prevention program. To date, school-based risk taking and injury prevention has frequently been limited to addressing adolescents' knowledge and attitudes to risk behaviours, and has largely overlooked the importance of the wider school social context as a protective factor in adolescent development.

Additionally, school connectedness has been primarily studied in terms of its impact on student achievement, wellbeing and risk taking behaviour, and research has not yet addressed possible links with injury. Further, school connectedness intervention programs have targeted risk taking behaviours without evaluating their potential impact on injury outcomes. This is the first reported research to develop strategies to increase school connectedness as part of a school-based injury prevention program.

The research program was conceptualised as three distinct stages. The development of these research stages was informed by a comprehensive review of the literature on adolescent risk taking, injury and school-based prevention, as well as on school connectedness and its importance in adolescence. A review of the school connectedness literature indicated that students' connectedness is largely influenced by relationships within the school context including with teachers and other school staff, and is therefore a potentially modifiable factor that may be targeted in school-based programs. Overall, the literature shows school connectedness to be a key protective factor in adolescent development. This review established a foundation from which the current program of research was designed.

The first stage of the research involved an empirical investigation of the relationship between adolescent risk taking-related injuries and school connectedness. Stage one incorporated two studies. The first involved the development of a measure of adolescent injury, the Extended Adolescent Injury Checklist (E-AIC), for use in the current research as well as in future school-based studies and program evaluation. The results of this study also highlighted the extent of the problem of risk-related injury in adolescence.

The second study in Stage one examined the relationship between students' reports of school connectedness, risk taking behaviour and risk taking-related injuries on the E-AIC. The results of this study showed significant relationships between increased school connectedness and reduced reported engagement in transport and violence risk taking, and fewer associated injuries. This study therefore suggested the potential for school-based injury prevention programs to incorporate strategies targeting increased adolescent connectedness to school.

The second stage of this research involved the compilation of an evidence base to inform the design of a school connectedness intervention. Stage two also incorporated two studies. The first study in Stage two involved a systematic review of programs that have targeted school connectedness for reduced risk taking and injury. The results of this study revealed that interventions targeting school connectedness can be effective in reducing adolescent risk taking behaviour, and also provided an evidence base for the design of the current school connectedness intervention. The second study in Stage two examined teachers' understanding and perceptions of school connectedness. This qualitative study indicated that teachers consider students' connectedness to be an important factor that relates to their risk taking behaviour; and also provided directions and content for the intervention design stage.

The third stage of this research built upon the findings of each of the previous studies, and involved the design, implementation and evaluation of a school connectedness intervention as a component of an adolescent injury prevention program, Skills for Preventing Injury in Youth (SPIY). This connectedness intervention was designed as a professional development workshop for teachers of 13 to 14 year old adolescents, and was developed as a complementary component to the curriculum-based SPIY program. The SPIY connectedness component was implemented and evaluated using process and six-month impact evaluation methodologies. The results of this study revealed that teachers saw value in the program and made use of the strategies presented, and that program school students' self-reported violence risk behaviour was reduced at six-month follow-up. Despite these promising findings, the results of this study did not demonstrate a significant impact of the program on change in students' connectedness to school, relative to comparison schools. The positive impact on self-reported violence risk behaviour was however replicated in additional analyses comparing students participating in the connectedness version of SPIY with students participating in an earlier curriculumonly version of the program. This finding indicated that the connectedness component has additional benefits relating to reduction in violence risks, over and above a curriculum-only version of the program.

This research was the first reported to address the relationship between school connectedness and adolescent injury outcomes, and to develop school connectedness as a component of an adolescent injury prevention program. Overall, the results of this program of research have demonstrated the importance of incorporating strategies targeting the wider school social context, including school connectedness, in adolescent injury prevention programs. This research has important implications for future research and practice in adolescent injury prevention.

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ID Code: 63484
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Sheehan, Mary, Buckley, Lisa, & Shochet, Ian
Keywords: school connectedness, adolescents, injury prevention, risk taking behaviour, schoolbased programs, protective factors, intervention design, program evaluation, teacher professional development
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 17 Oct 2013 23:36
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2015 04:10

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