Thriving in a broken system : an ecological investigation of academic achievement and resilience in foster youth
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Foster youth experience many adverse educational outcomes as a result of their frequently changing home and school environments. A well rounded model that identifies areas of resilience for foster youth may bolster the academic strengths of these adolescents and help them achieve academic success. With these needs in mind, this dissertation employed an ecological approach to fill the gaps in current knowledge of factors that influence academic achievement for foster youth. This secondary data analysis study utilized structural equation modeling (SEM) to create a holistic view of academic resilience that was based on Spencer’s 1995 Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (PVEST), using data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well Being (NSCAW). The study determined what factors predicted academic achievement in foster youth, how development influenced achievement, and which factors most strongly predicted growth in achievement. Results indicated that relationships with caregivers and other supportive adults and activities that cultivate resilience among foster youth were important predictors of math and reading achievement. Age also played a role as early adolescents (ages 11-13) and mid adolescents (ages 14-17) differed in how well constructs within the presented models were measured for each group. Additionally, age and maladaptive coping predicted variability in the initial levels and growth in reading and math achievement. Implications for supporting academic resilience by reducing school mobility and developing partnerships with key community members were discussed.