Caring and being cared -for: Perceptions of adolescent males at -risk for school failure

Cherie Pulen, Florida International University


This qualitative study used grounded theory methods and purposeful sampling to explore perceptions on caring and being cared-for. Twenty-four adolescent male participants, identified as at-risk for school failure, completed a two phase interview process exploring these phenomena within three relationships; the relationship with the friend, with the most caring person they knew and with the teacher they felt cared for them. Each participant was asked a predetermined set of open questions in an initial semi-structured interview. In addition each participant was encouraged to explore his own reflections on caring. A second interview allowed for member checking and for the participant to continue sharing his meaning of caring and being cared-for. Line by line analysis with open, axial and selective coding was applied to interview transcripts along with a constant comparative method. Results indicated that the core category integrating all other categories was attachment bonding. Participants' stories manifested characteristics of proximity seeking, secure base, safe haven and distress upon involuntary separation from an attachment figure. Strategies facilitating attachment bonding were influenced by the power positions of the relational players. Participants responded positively to the one-caring when they felt cared-for. Results further indicated that participants did not need to feel a sense of belonging in order to feel cared-for. Teacher behaviors indicating openness for authentic connections with students were specific to teacher's friendliness and professional competence. Teachers who nurtured feelings of being cared-for were uncommon in the participants' educational experience. The number of adolescent males leaving high school prematurely is both a personal problem and a social problem. Despite a “mask” of indifference often exhibited by adolescent males at-risk for school failure, teachers might consider the social/emotional needs of these students when implementing the curriculum. In addition, policy makers might consider the social/emotional needs of this vulnerable population when developing programs meant to foster psychological well-being and connectedness for adolescent males at-risk for school failure.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Pulen, Cherie, "Caring and being cared -for: Perceptions of adolescent males at -risk for school failure" (2005). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3169468.