Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Lynne Cohen

Abstract

The nature of adolescence has been identified as a time of vast biopsychosocial changes that take place within a dynamic environment. The interplay between the individual developmental changes and the surrounding changing environments has been considered in relation to the development of depression during adolescence. Research has indicated that depression elevates during adolescence (Cicchetti & Toth, 1998). Both normative and non-normative changes pertinent to the adolescent have been identified as risk factors. Social support from family, peers and teachers has been found to facilitate positive influences to the adolescent's psychological and emotional well being. Particularly the role teachers' play in relation to the identified protective factor sense of belonging within the school context has been highlighted. However, conflicting findings have indicated a need for further qualitative research into the characteristics of sense of school belonging to ensure its effective implementation within the school setting. Sense of school belonging has been identified in the literature as a protective factor for adolescents against various mental health issues and behavioural problems (Resnick, et al., 1997; Routt, 1996; Sun & Hui, 2007). Generally, sense of school belonging has been investigated from the student's perspective using quantitative measures (Goodenow, 1993a; Goodenow, 1993b; Williams & Downing, 1998). However, teachers have been identified as important facilitators in developing in students a sense of school belonging (Broderick, 2001; Edwards, 1995). This current study aimed to understand the perceptions of sense of belonging by teaching staff. Semi-structured interviews with eight teachers and two principals from two senior high schools were conducted. A thematic content analysis identified five main themes; organisational structure, teachers, engagement, communication and school values and principles. Findings were dominated by characteristics specific to the organisational practices and policies of the school. Several avenues for future research were identified, including further exploration of the schools' organisational practices and policies; both inception and implementation.

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