Edith Cowan University
Adolescent girls construct a developing sense of identity amongst a vast array of contextual influences, including family, school, peer relationships, and set within a broader societal context (Choate, 2007). Negotiating the many nuances, demands and dynamics of all these factors present young girls with developmental stressors. Secondary schools worldwide have an established tradition of providing pastoral care in an attempt to foster individual well being and guide students’ through the challenges of adolescence and beyond, with varying degrees of success (Calvert, 2009). The current study is a qualitative exploration of the experiences of a group of 36 adolescent girls as they participated in an after-school health and wellness programme at their boarding school in Perth. Data from observations, written questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews with five of the students was subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis. Regardless of the topic at hand, the girls’ narratives revealed strong themes of social support and self-concept. Social support was illustrated through reference to the importance of friendships, both old and new, and of maintaining family ties despite the distance of attending a city school. Self-concept was largely informed by these relationships, and also how the girls’ felt about school, sport and other outside influences on their identity. The data and interpretations from this project offer insight into the inner life of an adolescent girl in Perth. The research also adds to the knowledge base supporting health and wellness programmes, their design, content and delivery.