Development and evaluation of positive psychology interventions for Australian adolescents
thesisposted on 2017-02-02, 02:48 authored by Norrish, Jacolyn Maree
Youth consultation methods were integrated in the current thesis to create and test two school-based positive psychology interventions (PPIs) for adolescents. A literature review explored methodological and conceptual considerations in the application of positive psychology with adolescents (Publication 1). An exploratory study of 114 adolescents (aged 14 to 17) compared the relative contributions of key positive psychology variables (i.e., strengths use, hope, gratitude, pleasure, engagement, and meaning) to positive (i.e., life satisfaction, positive affect); and negative (i.e., negative affect, depression, and anxiety) indictors of mental health (Publication 2). As expected, positive psychology variables were significant predictors of all mental heath outcome variables. Specific findings from multiple regression analyses were that gratitude and strengths use were consistent predictors of negative mental health indicators; whereas hope and gratitude were significant predictors of life satisfaction, and hope, strengths use and engagement were significant predictors of positive affect. Two separate qualitative youth consultation processes (i.e., phone interviews with 28 adolescents and online questionnaires with 57 adolescents) were conducted. Adolescents’ recommendations on how to make mental health programs appealing and engaging were explored using NVivo thematic analysis and critically discussed (Publication 3). Subsequently, adolescents’ ideas were combined with extant research to develop two adolescent focused PPIs. The first PPI, the full life intervention, was a holistic, multi-component intervention that integrated activities aimed at cultivating hope, gratitude, strengths, pleasure, engagement, and meaning. The second PPI, the simple pleasures intervention, focused on exploring and savouring life’s simple pleasures. A school-based randomised controlled trial with 90 adolescents aged 14 to 17 was used to test the effectiveness of the two PPIs relative to a usual care control condition (Publication 4). Repeated measures ANOVAs indicated that participants allocated to all conditions reported decreased anxiety and stress post intervention. However, contrary to expectations, no significant improvements in well-being or symptoms of depression were evident. This research provides preliminary support for the application of PPIs in youth and school settings but underscores the need for more refined and systemic approaches that target multiple environments (i.e., family, school climate, community) in adolescents’ lives.