פרופ' שלהבת עטר-שוורץ

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ראש תוכנית הבוגר
חדר 506
02-5882236

 

Research Interests:

Well-being of young people in residential care

Intergenerational relationships and child well-being

Children’s well-being in “non-traditional” families

Children’s rights

Research Projects:

Adolescent well-being, social climate, and victimization in residential care settings

Grandparenting and adolescent well-being

Children’s welfare: Analysis of locality-level data

Youth participation in the political process: A multi-cultural perspective

Abstracts of Current Research :

Functioning of Adolescents in Residential Care Settings: The contribution of Personal Characteristics, Social Climate and Victimization Experiences

This large-scale study examines a multi-perspective model in which the perspectives of three partners in the milieu of residential care settings for children at risk (the children, staff members and the director) regarding social climate in the setting (e.g., child friendliness, staff support, strictness, etc.), victimization experiences by peers and staff members, and satisfaction from various aspects of lives in the institution, are explored. Those factors are linked with children’s outcomes, mainly with their emotional and behavioral adjustment, as well as running away and satisfaction from the setting. The study encompasses 1,314 adolescents (aged 11 to 19), 534 staff members and 32 directors in 32 rehabilitative and therapeutic settings for children at risk under the responsibility of the Welfare Ministry. 

Initial Findings - The Adolescents' Perspectives:

Emotional-Behavioral Adjustment of Adolescents:   Adolescents were asked to report on their emotional and behavioral adjustment difficulties (i.e., emotional symptoms, hyperactivity, conduct problems, and problems with peers) as well as their pro-social behavior using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) by Goodman (1997).  The findings show, first, that adolescents in residential care exhibit high level of adjustment problems and that high proportions of the adolescents can be classified as suffering from problems within the borderline or abnormal range of the clinical scale. For example, regarding emotional symptoms, about two-thirds of the adolescents report that they often complain on headaches, stomach-aches or sickness (psychosomatic symptoms) and about 60 percent report that they are often unhappy, down-hearted or tearful.  In addition, regarding hyperactivity, about two-thirds of the adolescents (62%) agree that they are easily distracted and more than a half (54%) of the adolescents report that they are often restless, overactive and cannot stay still for long. Mixed findings were revealed regarding gender, while girls report on more emotional symptoms and boys report on more conduct and peer problems. In addition, as expected, girls reported more pro-social behaviors than boys. Finally, younger adolescents, those who have less frequent contact with their parents and those who evaluated the social climate of their setting as more negative (less supportive, stricter, and less child friendly) and the setting policy aimed at reducing violence as less consistent, were more vulnerable to adjustment difficulties.

Peer Violence among the Adolescents: The study examined adolescents' victimization to verbal, physical, indirect and sexual victimization by their peers in the institution. They were presented with a list of aggressive behaviors and were asked to indicate whether they had experienced such behaviors in the prior month by their peers in the institution they are residing in currently.  The findings show a worrying picture regarding the extent of peer violence in rehabilitative and therapeutic institutions in Israel, as detailed below.

(a) Verbal victimization:  verbal violence (e.g., cursing and calling names) directed at adolescents by their peers was the most common violence type reported by the adolescents. It was found that about 80 percent of the adolescents reported on at least one act of verbal violence by their peers in the prior month in their residential care setting. For example, 76% of the adolescents reported that another child in their setting had cursed them at least once in the last month. 

(b) Social- indirect victimization:more than two thirds of the adolescents (69%) report on at least one indirect-social violence behavior directed towards them in the last month (such as spreading wrong rumors, excluding a child from the group, etc.). For example, more than half of the young people reported that another young person in their institution had spread wrong rumors about them at least once in the preceding month.

  (c) Moderate physical victimization: A similar rate of the adolescents (66%) report on experiencing at least one act of moderate physical violence (such as kicking and punching) by their peers in the last month. For example, 45% of the adolescents reported that another young person had grabbed and pushed them deliberately at least once in the last month, about 40% reported that they were kicked or punched, and 30.2% reported that another young person in the setting had used an object (such as a chair, a stick, or a different object) to hurt them physically. 

(d) Violence against property:About sixty percent of the adolescents reported on victimization for at least one act of property violence, such as theft of their personal belongings (54%) and property damage (34%) in their residential care setting.

 (e) Sexual harassment victimization:Overall, 40% of the adolescents were victims of at least one unwanted and unwelcome act of sexual harassment by peers (such as being touched in a sexual manner or kissed without their consent) in the prior month. For example,  17% of the adolescents reported that they were peeped at least once in the last month while they were in the bathroom or toilets, a similar percentage of adolescents (16%) reported that sexually insulted things about them were written on walls or spread as rumors, and 14% reported that they were touched or kissed without their consent by peers in their residential care setting or that another young person in their institution tried to hit on them and made sexual remarks that they did not want.  Lower, but not to be ignored, percentages of adolescents reported that a young person in their institution tried to take part of their clothes off for sexual reasons when they did not agree (7%) and that a young person (or persons) imposed peer pressure on them, or threatened to spread rumors about them, if they did not consent to their sexual demands (6%).

Gender, Age, and Cultural Affiliation:A comparison between boys and girls in their levels of victimization by peers reveal that boys report higher levels of victimization regarding the majority of aggressive behaviors examined.  For example, 70% of the boys reported on victimization for at least one act of moderate physical violence in the preceding month compared with 54% of the girls. Similarly, boys reported on higher levels of severe physical violence (34% compared with 22% among girls). However, it should be noted that girls (72%) reported on higher percentages of social-indirect victimization (such as exclusion and spreading rumors) than boys (66%). Similar rates of boys and girls reported on victimization of at least one act of verbal violence (82% among boys and 80% among girls), sexual victimization (40% among boys compared with 38% among girls) and violence against property (62% among boys and 59% among girls) by peers in their residential care setting in the last month.

Findings show that younger adolescents reported significantly on higher levels of victimization regarding all victimization types. For example, 42% of the younger adolescents (aged 11 to 15 years old) reported on victimization of at least one act of sexual harassment by their peers in the last month compared with 33% among older adolescents (16-19 years old).

The comparison between Arab and Jewish adolescents revealed a mixed picture. On the one hand, Jewish adolescents reported on more verbal victimization (84% among Jewish youth versus 70% among Arabs) and violence against property (63% compared with 49% of adolescents from the Arab sector). On the other hand, adolescents in Arab institutions reported on significantly higher percentages of victimization to severe physical violence (38% compared with 26% among Jews). Similar rates of Jewish and Arab adolescents reported on social-indirect victimization by peers (69% compared with 66% among Jewish students) and moderate physical victimization (62% compared with 65% in the Jewish sector). In other words, it seems that, consistently with school violence studies (see for example, Benbenishty at al., 2006) that Arab adolescents reported on higher levels of severe physical victimization by peers while higher levels of victimization to "milder" peer violence was reported by Jewish adolescents (verbal and violence against property victimization).

Staff Maltreatment: Staff maltreatment in out-of-home care for children at-risk is an alarming phenomenon, yet existing research is severely limited, based mainly on administrative data of reported cases, analysis of a limited range of correlates, adult reports, and small-scale samples. Adolescents were presented with a list of aggressive behaviors and were asked to indicate whether they had been victims of such a behavior perpetrated by a staff member in their residential care setting (including any adult that works or volunteers in the institution, such as, social workers, direct caregivers, home parents, directors, psychologists, volunteers, administrative staff) at least once in the last month. In the current study two types of staff maltreatment (Benbenishty et al., 2002; Furlong et al., 2005) were examined: (a) verbal maltreatment, including two items related to being cursed at or humiliated, insulted or ridiculed by a staff member; and (b) physical maltreatment, including four items related to being grabbed and shoved, pinched, slapped, and kicked or punched.  The findings reveal that one in three of the adolescents (33%) reported being verbally maltreated by a staff member at least once in the last month. For example, 30% of the adolescents reported that they were humiliated, insulted or ridiculed by a staff member at least once in the last month and 15% of the adolescents reported on being cursed by a staff member.  In addition, over a quarter of the adolescents (28%) reported being a victim of at least one type of physical maltreatment in the preceding month. For example, about one fifth of the adolescents (19%) reported that they were grabbed and shoved deliberately and a similar rate reported that they were pinched (16%) by a staff member at least once in the last month. In addition, about one in ten adolescents reported being slapped (12%) or kicked or punched (11%) by a staff member in their residential care setting at least once in the last month.    

Boys reported on significantly more physical (35% of the boys reported at least one act of physical violence by staff in the last month compared with 19% of the girls) and on slightly more verbal victimization by staff than girls (41% compared with 35% of the girls). Arab adolescents reported on significantly more physical victimization (34.7% among Arabs compared with 22% of the Jewish adolescents) and on slightly more verbal victimization (35% versus 32% in the Arab sector) by staff than Jewish adolescents. It is interesting to note that while Arab adolescents reported on significantly more severe violence problem in their institution, the Arab directors and staff members have evaluated the levels of violence in their institution as a significantly reduced problem than their Jewish colleagues. Moreover, the study found that younger adolescents, adolescents with more emotional symptoms and hyperactive behavior and those who perceived the residential care staff as stricter and less supportive reported on significantly more staff maltreatment. The study emphasizes the need for an ecological perspective in addressing staff use of violence in out-of-home residential settings and for the development of intervention and prevention programs that are tailored specifically to the various risk groups identified.

Additional information(in Hebrew) regarding the study can be found in following publication: Attar-Schwartz, S. (2010).The emotional-behavioral functioning of adolescent in rehabilitative and therapeutic residential care settings: The contribution of personal, institutional, and social climate characteristics – A report submitted to the Welfare Ministry.Jerusalem: School of Social Work and Social Welfare.

Grandparenting and Adolescent Well-Being

With changing families, increased life expectancy, growing numbers of dual-worker households and higher rates of family breakdown, grandparents are now playing an increasing role in their grandchildren’s lives. Despite their growing importance there has been little research from the perspective of young people on their involvement with grandparents and how this impacts on their well-being. In the framework of my postdoctoral research year in OxfordUniversity, I have been part of a team working on the analysis of the National UK Study on Grandparenthood which was led by my host, Prof. Ann Buchanan. This study, which was funded by the ESRC, was the first nationally representative study of young people’s views on their relationships with their grandparents. It encompasses 1569 adolescents (aged 11-16) in schools across England and Wales.  In collaboration with the investigators from England, we are focusing on the following areas: (a) Adolescents perspectives on relationships with grandparents: The contribution of adolescents, grandparents and parent-grandparent variables; (b) The contribution of grandparent involvement to adolescents’ adjustment in different family structures; (c) Emotional closeness to grandparents as a buffer from family adversity; (d) Gender issues in adolescent-grandparent relationship.

Funded by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF), I am currently working on a study on grandparenting and adolescent well-being from the perspective of Jewish and Palestinian youth in Israel. This study may allow a better understanding of the interplay between culture and intergenerational relationships and will help filling a considerable gap in existing literature. The findings of the Israeli study will be compared with the findings of the UK National Grandparenting Study mentioned above.

A Longitudinal Study of Children’s Outcomes in Residential Care

Most of the existing research on the outcomes of children in out-of-home care is based on cross-sectional designs and small samples. In this research, in collaboration with Dr. Tamar Zemach-Marom from Brookdale Institute and Prof. Rami Benbenishty (Bar-Ilan University), we intend to investigate the psychosocial and educational outcomes of children in rehabilitative and therapeutic facilities for children at-risk from a longitudinal perspective. The investigation is based on the analysis of data collected by the Brookdale Institute annually on about 5,000 children in residential care facilities under the responsibility of the Welfare Ministry. I will be responsible in the framework of this study to explore the change in levels of depression and anxiety, aggressive behavior and social problems, their correlates and the interactions between those correlates. The main tool I intend to use to study this issue would be the Hierarchical Linear Modeling which allows us to study data that is organized in more than one level (in this case, several observations related to the same child).

Children's Welfare : Analysis of Locality-level Data

In this study, together with Dr. Asher Ben-Arieh and Dr. Mona Khoury-Kassabri, we explore the prevalence of children in need utilizing three measures: criminal records, maltreatment reports, and children’s whose families are clients of the social services for various reasons. We are examining these issues in the locality level. We are specifically interested in aggregated (locality-level) correlates of socio-economic indicators, ethnic affiliation and social workers positions in each locality. The analysis is based on data collected by the National Council for the Child and by other governmental and non-governmental bodies between the years 1997-2006.

Youth Participation in the Political Process: A Multi-Cultural Perspective in an Unstable Environment

This study, which is funded by the Warburg Foundation and conducted with Dr. Asher Ben-Arieh investigates from a cross-cultural comparative perspective, the socio-political-religious context and its influence on youth and policymakers’ perceptions of children's role in the policymaking. The study also examines how that context affects those perceptions and its practice among children and decision makers. The study is based on data collected from about 1500 Jewish and Palestinian adolescents in Israel

 

Recent Publications

 

 Chapters in Collections

Bradshaw, J., & Attar-Schwartz, S. (2010). Fertility and social policy. In: N. Takayama, & M. Werding (Eds.). Fertility and public policy: How to reverse the trend in declining birth rates (pp. 185-212). Cambridge, MA and London, UK: MIT-Press.

Attar-Schwartz, S., & Buchanan, A.., & Flouri, E. (2011) Grandparent involvement and adolescent adjustment: Should grandparents have legal rights? In C. Lind, J. Bridgeman, & H. Keating, (Eds.). Transforming families, regulating responsibilities (pp. 191-212). London: Ashgate.

Attar-Schwartz, S., & Buchanan, A. (2012). Grandparent-adolescent relationships. In: R.J.R. Levesque (Ed).Encyclopedia of adolescence (pp. 1213-1225). New-York: Springer. 

Articles in Refereed Journals

Attar, S., Parker, G., & Wade, J. (2007). The potential of secondary data sources to explore the life chances of looked after children in the UK. Journal of Children’s Services, 2(2), 39-47.

Attar, S., Benbenishty, R., & Haj-Yahia, M. (2007). Shortform Assessment for Children (SAC): Empirical evaluation inIsrael. Welfare and Society, 27(1), 79-101. (Hebrew).

Attar-Schwartz, S. (2008). Emotional, behavioral and social problems among Israeli children in residential care: A multi-level analysis. Children and Youth Services Review, 30(2), 229-248.

Khoury-Kassabri, M., & Attar-Schwartz, S. (2008). Student victimization by peers: Comparison between Bedouin and non-Bedouin Arab students in Israel. Journal of School Violence, 7(3), 3-23.

Attar-Schwartz, S., & Khoury-Kassabri, M. (2008). Indirect versus verbal forms of victimization at school: The contribution of student, family, and school variables. Social Work Research, 32(3), 159-170.

Khoury-Kassabri, M., & Attar-Schwartz, S. (2008). Student victimization by peers in Arab schools in Israel. Welfare and Society28(2-3), 203-223. (Hebrew).

Haj-Yahia, M., & Attar-Schwartz, S. (2008). Attitudes of Palestinian preschool teachers from Israel toward reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. Child and Family Social Work13, 378-390.

Attar-Schwartz, S., Tan, J.P., Buchanan, A., Flouri, E., & Griggs, J. (2009). Grandparenting and adolescent adjustment in two-parent biological, lone-parent, and step- families. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(1), 67-75.

Ben-Arieh, A., McDonnell, J., & Attar-Schwartz, S. (2009). Safety and home-school relations as indicators of children well-being: Whose perspective counts? Social Indicators Research, 90, 339-349.

Attar-Schwartz, S., Tan, J.P., & Buchanan, A. (2009). Adolescents’ perspectives on relationships with grandparents: The contribution of adolescent, grandparent, and parent-grandparent relationship variables. Children and Youth Services Review, 31, 1057-1066.

Attar-Schwartz, S. (2009). School functioning of children in residential care: The contributions of multilevel correlates.Child Abuse & Neglect, 33, 429-440.

Attar-Schwartz, S. (2009). Peer sexual harassment victimization at school: The roles of student characteristics, cultural affiliation and school factors. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79, 407-420.

Griggs, J., Tan, J.P., Buchanan, A., Attar-Schwartz, S., & Flouri, E. (2010). ‘They’ve always been there for me’: Grandparental involvement and child well-being. Children and Society, 24, 200-214.

Tan, J.P., Buchanan, A., Flouri, E., Attar-Schwartz, S., & Griggs, J. (2010). Filling in the parenting gap? Grandparent involvement with UK adolescents. Journal of Family Issues, 31, 992-1015.

Flouri, E., Buchanan, A., Tan, J.P., Griggs, J., & Attar-Schwartz, S. (2010). Adverse life events, area socio-economic disadvantage, and psychopathology and prosocial behavior in adolescence: The role of closeness to grandparents as a buffer against risk. Stress: The International Journal on Biology of Stress, 13(5), 402-412.

Ben-Yehuda, Y., Attar-Schwartz, S., Ziv, A., Jedov, M., & Benbenishty, R. (2010). Child abuse and neglect: Reporting by health professionals and their need for training.  Israel Medical Association Journal- IMAJ, 12, 596-602.

Attar-Schwartz, S., Ben-Arieh, A., & Khoury-Kassabri, M. (2011). The geography of child welfare in Israel: The role of nationality, religion, socio-economic factors, and social workers availability. British Journal of Social Work, 41, 1122-1139.

Attar-Schwartz, S. (2011). Maltreatment by staff in residential care facilities: The adolescents' perspectives. Social Service Review, 85, 635-664.

Attar-Schwartz, S., & Ben-Arieh, A. (2012). Political knowledge, attitudes and values among Palestinian and Jewish youth in Israel: The role of nationality, gender and religiosity. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 704-712.

Pinchover, S., & Attar-Schwartz, S. (Accepted for Publication). Emotional-behavioral functioning of children and youth in welfare residential care settings: The contribution of personal characteristics, victimization experiences while in care, and the setting's social climate. Mifgash LeAvoda Hinuchit Socialit (Hebrew).

Ben-Arieh, A., & Attar-Schwartz, S. (Accepted for Publication). An ecological approach to children's rights and participation: Interrelationships and correlates of rights in different ecological systems. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.