We Still Love John

October 13, 2009

The Penn Resiliency Programme – An inspiration for John

Filed under: #3: discovery and reporting — welovejohn @ 1:41 pm


In a 1990 pilot program, Penn graduate psychology students showed 70 children ages 6 to 12 how to back off from pessimistic or habitually negative assumptions.

For 12 weeks the Penn researchers taught the kids how to tell the difference between productive and self-defeating thinking.

Researchers then instructed the children to look at their own fears and ask, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and “How likely is it that this will pan out?” “The kids had to test their expectations and see if they were realistic,” Shatte says.

In one exercise, students examined the case of Tim C., a ten-year-old who believed that people didn’t like him, that he wasn’t very good in school, and that he would never get decent grades. The students looked for evidence supporting or refuting Tim’s assumptions.

The group also learned how to analyze a difficult situation, then make a list of options and alternatives. Says Shatte, “We taught them the basic skills of problem-solving.”

All the kids were at risk for depression because of conflict or instability in their homes. Two years later, Shatte and his colleagues found only 22% of the kids in the program still felt depressed, compared to 44% of kids from similar backgrounds in a control group.

Some interesting findings from the Penn Resiliency Programme:

  • Girls tend to become resilient by building strong, caring relationships, while boys usually bounce back by learning how to problem-solve.
  • Kids can learn how to be more resilient, regardless of their IQ.
  • Children learn resilience from their parents up to the age of 11; after that, they learn from their peers.
  • Parents and caregivers find it easy to teach resilience when a child is young, vulnerable, and helpless, yet they find it difficult when dealing with rebellious kids.
  • Affluence doesn’t seem to matter. Parents in developing nations teach resilience as often as those in affluent countries.
  • Punishment and blame are counterproductive.

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