Foundations of Support: Interpersonal and personal processes associated with rural-based young people supporting a peer who experienced a traumatic event
AffiliationCentre for Youth Mental Health
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2021 Erin Dolan
There is limited research on how supporting a peer through a traumatic event is experienced by young people, and how this process occurs specifically within a rural setting. Furthermore, little is known about how this contextual environment can impact on individuals and interpersonal processes. The aim of this research was to understand the experiences of rural-based young people providing support to a peer who has experienced a traumatic event and the interpersonal processes associated with that support. A further aim was to understand how the contextual environment impacted on these individual and interpersonal processes. A qualitative study using a constructivist grounded theory was deemed an appropriate methodology to address the aims of the study and aid in the construction of a theory explaining the phenomenon. The study was based in Gippsland, a rural region which covers the south-eastern part of Victoria (Australia). Participants were recruited via convenience sampling, social media and snowballing techniques. The initial sample consisted of 18 participants, 5 males and 13 females, with a mean age of 16.38 (range 14-19 years). Participants completed an in-depth individual interview (semi-structured as well as broad open-ended interview questions developed based on the literature review). Theoretical sampling was required to obtain further information to better understand the impact of the contextual environment on the individual and interpersonal processes. The theoretical sample consisted of three previous participants and four new participants (n=7). This sample completed a refined interview protocol (based on topics identified by participants in the first interview, and the literature surrounding rural contextual issues). The final sample consisted of 22 participants, 6 male and 16 females, with a mean age of 16.54 (range 14-19). The grounded theory methodology supported the development of a substantive theory – ‘Foundations of Support’, which explained both the contextual influences and the personal and interpersonal processes associated with young people in Gippsland, Victoria, supporting a peer who experienced a traumatic event. Foundations of support highlighted that young people who shared responsibility for supporting their peer went back to life as normal, whereas young people who maintained sole responsibility, experienced mental health problems and felt woven into the mix. This theory implies that providing pathways to reconnecting with place and community, are essential in guiding young people back to their foundations of support, promoting self-regulation and social connection, whilst also reducing the burden of sole responsibility and the woven effect. In order to build a robust and broad theory which is meaningful across a range of contextual settings, future research should focus on testing the ‘Foundations of Support’ theory in populations such as urban youth, ethnic and minority groups, indigenous, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders and other age brackets.
KeywordsYouth; Support; Rural settings; Trauma; Informal support; Social proximity; Secondary Traumatic Stress; Vicarious Trauma; Peer-to-peer support; Youth caregiving; Rural environments; Constructivist Grounded Theory; Grounded Theory; Symbolic Interactionism; Peer attachment
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