Issues affecting adolescent psychosocial development, bullying, and school safety in three appalachian counties


In order to reduce bullying and to foster psychosocial development in adolescents, schools benefit most from a holistic approach (Bowllan, 2011; Drake et al., 2003). The purpose of this study was to understand the beliefs held by high school decision-makers (HSDMs) regarding bullying, positive youth development, and limitations that schools and sports have in fostering a positive school climate. HSDMs included administrators, athletic directors, and counsellors from five high schools in Northern Appalachia. Nine HSDMs participated in the semi-structured interviews (M = 62 min; Range = 49-76 min). Trustworthiness of the results was enhanced through the use of pilot interviews, verbatim transcription, independent coding, triangulation, a critical reviewer of the coding and analyses, and member-check procedures (Patton, 2014). The primary investigator conducted the interviews, trained the coders, critiqued open codes, and led the thematic analysis (Creswell, 2014). Participants described a number of Limitations to PYD and reducing bullying, including Barriers, and a Lack of Consistency in programing, messaging, values, etc. Barriers included: Student and athlete struggles (competition in sport, fitting in, esteem); Sport and leader barriers (negative effects of sport, wrong motivations in sport, lack of training for staff/coaches, coach/teacher uncertainty); and School barriers (finances, student-teacher ratio, rapport with students). Lack of Consistency was organized into two categories: Within Schools (e.g., constantly changing programs, lack of standards, and disconnect between staff) and Outside of Schools (e.g., social influences, family problems, family values not inline with school's, and limits to the impact schools can have). Implications for the development of PYD programs in regional high schools are discussed.

Acknowledgments: Funding for this study was provided by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and from the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences at WVU.