A meta -analysis of empirical research studies on resilience among students at -risk for school failure

David L Mikolashek, Florida International University


Being at-risk is a growing problem in the U.S. because of disturbing societal trends such as unemployment, divorce, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, and the new threat of terrorist violence. Resilience characterizes individuals who rebound from or adapt to adversities such as these, and academic resilience distinguishes at-risk students who succeed in school despite hardships. The purpose of this research was to perform a meta-analysis to examine the power of resilience and to suggest ways educators might improve academic resilience, which was operationalized by satisfactory test scores and grades. In order to find all studies that were relevant to academic resilience in at-risk kindergarten through 12th-grade students, extensive electronic and hardcopy searches were conducted, and these resulted in a database of 421 articles. Two hundred eighty seven of these were rejected quickly, because they were not empirical research. Upon further examination, another 106 were rejected for not meeting study protocol criteria. Ultimately, 28 studies were coded for study level descriptors and effect size variables. Protective factors for resilience were found to originate in physical, psychological, and behavioral domains on proximal/intraindividual, transitional/intrafamilial, or distal/extrafamilial levels. Effect sizes (ESs) for these were weighted and the means for each level or category were interpreted by commonly accepted benchmarks. Mean effect sizes for proximal (M = .27) and for transitional (M = .15) were small but significant. The mean effect size for the distal level was insignificant. This supported the hypotheses that the proximal level was the source of most protective factors for academic resilience in at-risk students followed by the transitional level. The distal effect size warranted further research particularly in light of the small number of studies (n = 11) contributing effect sizes to that category. A homogeneity test indicated a search for moderators, i.e., study variables affecting outcomes, was justified. “Category” was the largest moderator. Graphs of weighted mean effect sizes in the physical, psychological, and behavioral domains were plotted for each level to better illustrate the findings of the meta-analysis. Suggestions were made for combining resilience development with aspects of positive psychology to promote resilience in the schools.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Mikolashek, David L, "A meta -analysis of empirical research studies on resilience among students at -risk for school failure" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3151972.