A new study published in Psychological Reports highlights the role fathers play in adolescent resilience. Study author Yue Yu and colleagues posit that when adolescents grow up with fathers present, they are more likely to experience failure learning, which supports the development of resilience.
Navigating the pressure of adolescence can be challenging; this stage of development is vulnerable to the pressures of social and academic life and the pressures of determining the path of adult life. Prior research had found resilience, or the capacity to cope with and recover from challenges, as a critical component to success in adolescence.
Additionally, research has found that resilience is higher when there is a high-quality father presence in the adolescent’s life. The research team was curious if they could uncover the reasons for this relationship.
Failure learning, as the name implies, is a type of learning that occurs through the experience of failure. There are four components to failure learning: failure cognition, reflective analysis, experience transformation, and prudent attempt.
Failure cognition refers to the individual’s understanding and perception of a failure event. This includes recognizing that a failure has occurred and understanding the causes of the failure.
Reflective analysis involves evaluating the events that led to the failure, and critically analyzing one’s own actions and decisions. This helps individuals identify their mistakes and identify areas for improvement.
Experience transformation involves taking the insights gained from reflective analysis and using them to transform the experience of failure into a valuable learning opportunity.
Prudent attempt involves putting the lessons learned into practice, and taking calculated risks to improve one’s performance. This component emphasizes the importance of trying again and not being discouraged by previous failures.
Yu and colleagues intended to determine if any of these four components are more valuable to building resilience in the context of high-quality father presence.
Participants were gathered from Chinese middle and secondary schools in the Jiangsu Province and Shanxi Provinces. Participant ages ranged from 12 to 18, with an average age of 14. After eliminating survey responses that were unfinished or otherwise unsuitable, the research team recruited 629 participants. All participants took the Chinese father presence scale, an adolescence resilience scale, and a failure learning measure.
Analysis of the collected data revealed that participants who experienced high-quality father presence also scored high on the measure of resilience. They also found that two specific components of failure learning seemed to connect the presence of a father and resilience; these were experience transformation and prudent attempt.
The research team describes the findings in this way, “In our study, father presence became the external influence factor of adolescents’ resilience, and failure learning was the internal strength.”
The researchers suggest that the presence of a father supports the adolescent in transforming the experience of failure into something valuable. In addition, adolescents are supported around their decisions that lead to failure. It may be that fathers help them understand they made a “prudent attempt” that just did not work out as hoped.
The research team acknowledges there are limitations to their work. First, they recognized that their sample was all Chinese and that replicating their work in other cultures may yield different results. Additionally, mothers and their contributions to resilience were not evaluated. It could be that the resilience adolescents demonstrate is due to maternal influence but only in situations where there is a partner or co-parent available to ease their parenting responsibilities.
Despite these concerns, the study contributes to the search for factors that can support a healthy and successful adolescence. The research team concludes, “The paper did also provide support for the mediating effect of failure learning in the relationship between Chinese father presence and adolescents’ resilience. It underscored the role of failure learning to promote adolescents’ resilience when encountering setbacks.”
The study “Father presence and adolescents’ resilience: The mediating role of failure learning“, was authored by Yue Yu, Xueyan Wei, Robert D Hisrich, and Linfang Xue.