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Welcome to the first edition of the journal for 2016. Unfortunately the special edition on Developmental Disability is delayed and will be published in the next issue. However, there are many interesting papers which I hope you will enjoy reading and be useful for your practice in this edition.
A high level of parental involvement is widely considered to be essential for optimal child and adolescent development and wellbeing, including academic success. However, recent consideration has been given to the idea that extremely high levels of parental involvement (often called ‘overparenting’ or ‘helicopter parenting’) might not be beneficial. This study used a newly created overparenting measure, the Locke Parenting Scale (LPS), to investigate the association of overparenting and children's homework. Eight hundred and sixty-six parents completed online questionnaires about their parenting beliefs and intentions, and their attitudes associated with their child's homework. Parents with higher LPS scores tended to take more personal responsibility for the completion of their child's homework than did other parents, and ascribed greater responsibility for homework completion to their child's teacher. However, increased perceived responsibility by parents and teachers was not accompanied by a commensurate reduction in what they perceived was the child's responsibility. Future research should examine whether extreme parental attitudes and reported behaviours translate to validated changes in actual homework support.
Achieving broad-scale parent1 engagement with school initiatives has proven elusive. This article reports survey data from 287 Maltese parents about their perceptions of the quality of their child's school's initiatives for promoting students’ wellbeing and mental health. Findings indicate that, on average, parents rated school initiatives highly. However, a MANCOVA of respondents grouped into three categories of Self-Assessed Parenting Capabilities (low, medium, high) showed that parents who held low perceptions of their own parenting capabilities also held significantly lower perceptions of the quality of schools’ mental health promotion initiatives. Less favourable dispositions towards school mental health promotion initiatives by parents with relatively low-parenting capabilities have implications for the design and delivery of school-based initiatives. For example, typical parent engagement, support and information provision activities (e.g., parent-teacher meetings, newsletters) might be less well received in families that arguably have a greater need to engage with such initiatives. This study has implications for whole-school mental health promotion initiatives that seek to include all parents.
Families and schools are important environments that contribute to the resilience and positive development of preadolescent children. Sense of mastery, including its two central factors of optimism and self-efficacy, forms an important component of resilience during preadolescence (Prince-Embury, 2007). This study examined the interrelationships between family functioning, school connectedness, and sense of mastery in 75 children (46 girls and 29 boys) from a government school in Melbourne, Australia. Data was gathered from students aged 10 to 12 years through three self-report questionnaires. Negative perceptions of family functioning were significantly associated with the resilience factors of low sense of mastery, optimism, and self-efficacy. Higher school connectedness was significantly associated with greater sense of mastery, optimism, and self-efficacy. Additional evaluation revealed school connectedness to partially mediate the relationship between family functioning and sense of mastery. School connectedness appears to be a protective factor against the negative influence of poor family functioning. Findings highlight the important role of school connectedness in preadolescent resilience, as measured in terms of mastery, and suggest that interventions directed to enhance school connectedness are of value, particularly for children from poorly functioning families.
This study examined associations between loneliness, a construct associated with serious adverse mental health outcomes, and positive mental wellbeing. Validated measures of loneliness (represented by friendship-related loneliness, isolation, positive attitude to solitude, and negative attitude to solitude) and positive mental wellbeing were administered to 1,143 adolescents from urban and rural schools. Confirmatory factor analyses revealed satisfactory model fit for both measures. A structural equation model confirmed significant positive associations between positive mental wellbeing and friendship-related loneliness and positive attitude to solitude; a significant negative association was found for isolation. Regression analyses provided support for significant differences in these associations according to gender, age, and geographical location (although only marginally). The implications of these findings during adolescence are reviewed.
Consumers are increasingly turning to both the internet and apps for mental health assistance. Mobile technologies such as smart phones and tablets offer swift and anonymous access for students to internet sites and app environments. Availability, however, does not guarantee quality or credibility. This web-based pilot study was undertaken to evaluate internet sites and apps on their ability to provide quality and credible information about counselling and counsellors. Of the 69 internet sites identified, only five met the inclusion criteria, and of the 30 apps identified, only eight met the inclusion criteria for quality and credibility. Inter-observer agreement was found to be 95.6% for the inclusion processes and 93% for quality and credibility. The findings strongly suggested that while there was a vast amount of information on the web, both internet sites and apps rarely met criteria for quality and credibility. The role of school counsellors in helping students use web-based counselling tools was discussed.
The current study explored the reasons that primary school teachers reported were tipping points for them in deciding whether or not and when to refer a child to the school student support team for excessive anxiety. Twenty teachers in two Queensland primary schools were interviewed. Content analysis of interview transcripts revealed six themes reflecting teachers’ perceived reasons for deciding to refer anxious children: (1) impact on learning; (2) atypical child behaviour; (3) repeated difficulties that do not improve over time; (4) poor response to strategies; (5) teachers’ need for support; and (6) information from parents/carers. Teachers considered different combinations of reasons and had many different tipping points for making a referral. Both teacher- and system-level influences impacted referral decisions. Implications and future research are discussed.
A thorough understanding of adolescent drinking and delinquent behaviour is required in order to implement early prevention and intervention programs in schools. Broadly based on the common cause model of adolescent deviance, this study investigated and compared, across genders, the prevalence and inter-relationships of various indicators of adolescent drinking and delinquency. Participants were 312 secondary school students (aged 13–17, 57.7% male) in Canberra, Australia, who completed an anonymous survey comprising the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test and the Australian Self-Reported Delinquency Scale — Revised. We found very few gender differences in drinking and delinquency patterns, and noted medium-to-strong associations among various dimensions of adolescent drinking and delinquent activities. Resulting implications for school prevention programs are considered.
The two papers in the Applied Practices section of the current journal both provide a perspective on the breadth of the school counsellor's/school psychologist's role. In her paper titled “Conceptualising and facilitating success in interagency collaborations: Implications for practice from the literature” Miriam Herlihy, an educational psychologist in New Zealand, explores and discusses collaboration, as a key area of practice. In a well-structured examination of the issues, she explores the importance of collaboration between agencies to best support children, noting that wide differences exist about the nature of and enactment of collaborative practices.
Collaboration between normally separate agencies involved in cases of child mental health, and those supporting their participation and inclusion in school settings, is being increasingly promoted as the answer to intervening in a more ecologically valid and responsive manner. Yet a clear-cut evidence base supporting interagency collaboration in practice is hindered by wide variation in how collaboration is defined, how collaborative initiatives are established and run, and how the success of widely varying programs is interpreted or evaluated. Despite this variation, some strong indicators of success continue to appear. An overview of the literature on interagency collaboration in the context of child mental health, special education, and wellbeing is presented, including risks, benefits, and indicators of success.
An exploratory applied study, using a set of attention and working memory strategies specifically developed for students and named Memory Mates, was completed with normally developing students attending a primary school. Students in one classroom received the intervention, while the other classroom functioned as a control group. The study was experimental, with quantitative measures. Additional qualitative data was collected to facilitate the ongoing development of Memory Mates. A working memory instrument was used to rank students initially, and as a post-intervention measure for children with low working memory, with some gains in working memory observed in the experimental classroom students. Data were collected on academic achievement in reading, spelling, and maths. Post-intervention data analysis of the impact of the Memory Mates intervention showed no differences between the experimental and control groups for standardised academic measures. Several reasons are postulated for the lack of significant quantifiable change, chiefly the short period of intervention.