Get access

The Role of “Envisioning the Future” in the Development of Resilience Among At-Risk Youth


  • Teri Aronowitz, Ph.D., M.S.N., APRN, F.N.P., is Assistant Professor, Northeastern University School of Nursing, Boston, Massachusetts.

* Teri Aronowitz, 408 D Robinson Hall, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115–5000. E-mail:


Abstract  The objective was to explore the process by which adolescents develop resilience and change their risk behaviors despite multiple stressors in their environment. The design was exploratory using grounded theory to understand the process from the teens’ perspectives. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 32 individuals—28 adolescents (age range 16–21 years) and 4 adults (age range 32 and 72)—on two occasions. The participants used the basic social process “envisioning the future” to become resilient and stop engaging in risk behaviors. Envisioning the future included two processes “feeling competent” and “elevating expectations” that were facilitated within the context of a relationship with a reliable, caring, and competent adult. Participants in this study became resilient despite environmental stressors by setting higher expectations for themselves and feeling self-confident. The findings of this study provide information regarding the specific behaviors that promote positive outcomes in at-risk youth and suggest ways in which public health nurses can facilitate these behaviors in both the youth and their mentors.