The intervention offered a negative and alienating experience, even culminating with their withdrawal. Nathan eventually refused to take part, claiming he would rather be in lessons. The presence of entrenched friendship groups within the intervention had an impact on its members as the internal dynamics of the group were renegotiated, with this process frequently manifesting in deviancy amplification. Indeed for many this political activity was at the fore, with the intervention offering a site where their positioning could be augmented.
As the group commenced, the majority of students were engaged in activities and tentatively offered emotional narratives. Attempts to elevate status also saw students increasingly brag about the high risk, and often illegal activities that were esteemed by the group. Following a positive response to Jayden's account, the boys were able to estimate the stories that would improve their status, and sought to develop a similar portfolio of tales: As soon as they came through the door Neil and Leighton could not wait for everyone to know what they had done.
Eventually, on mentioning they had smoked nine joints a day, the others took an interest. Talking over each other, they were quick to tell that they had been so stoned they had walked four miles to Tesco for munchies but it was shut and Leighton fell asleep on a bench outside. Neil called for a taxi, but when it arrived Leighton would not wake up so it drove off and they had to walk all the way home again via McDonalds. None of these individuals were bound by closely bonded friendships or entrenched behavioural norms.
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Deviancy amplification was not a feature of this group. Rather students behaved differently from how they habitually acted within the broader context of their lives. Faye said that some friends she had argued with had been really horrible that morning and had asked her what she was wearing. She had told them that she was wearing the same as always and they said she looked awful …. Once this had finished and nothing else seemed like it was going to emerge Emma asked us to excuse her while she went to get some paper.
When she left Gemma turned to Faye and told her to stand up to the girls in order to make them stop. This paper reports the lived experiences of young people participating in a targeted SEL intervention. These mechanisms resonate with and refine existing concepts, while offering new insights. However, while labelling has predominantly been theorised as negative, invoking notions of stigma and exclusion, this study provided a more complex and nuanced account of its manifestation.
For some students the failing subject position actually held positive connotations, with the increasingly coveted label conferring a degree of intervention capital that could be drawn upon within the peer group to elevate status. Yet despite the apparent positive reaction to targeting in this instance, a similar decrement in outcomes was apparent, with students resisting and rejecting the intervention in order to retain their acquired positioning.
The second two processes relate to the composition of intervention groups, which is a result of the targeting criteria employed. In a number of schools targeting according to a specified behaviour identified entrenched friendship groups that were characterised and bonded through endorsement of such behaviours. These friendships were frequently privileged over the activity of programme participation; within the unfamiliar context students would seek safety in the familiarity of these relationships. Students also sought to jostle for position within their hierarchically structured relationships through the amplification of deviancy.
Through the repeated exchange of stories of deviancy participants were able to estimate the reports that would garner the most positive responses. They would then seek to develop a portfolio of tales that they could share during future encounters in order to enhance their status. However, as this study has shown, it is the very fact that peers exist in closely bonded friendships prior to commencement of the intervention that may be important. Deviancy formed part of the political activity of friendship. Thus there was a phenomenon of deviancy amplification as opposed to deviancy training, with this amplified activity serving as a mechanism for achieving both emotional and reputational security.
To further understand the emergence of these iatrogenic effects it is vital to explore pertinent contextual features that serve as supporting or inhibitory factors. In this study adverse outcomes were not an inevitable consequence of targeting. Rather they were contingent on the educational discourses espoused, with the discourses of care and discipline having a differential impact.
Where there was a supportive context students often indicated their pleasure at being identified for additional learning as they interpreted it as an act of care that was conducive with the broader organisational ethos. The emergence of iatrogenic mechanisms suggests a number of implications for targeted SEL programmes, and targeted interventions more broadly. This is not to suggest the abandonment of targeting per se , as in some instances it may constitute the most appropriate intervention approach Weare and Nind, Rather it is to acknowledge and accommodate the fact that young people may have complex and conflicted responses to the subject positions conferred during the targeting process.
In the first instance there is an evident need to explore these multifarious reactions more fully through comprehensive qualitative work that avoids adultist interpretations and privileges the meanings and perspectives of those targeted Greenberg, Second, the educational discourses espoused by schools must be attended to. Third, there needs to be careful consideration of intervention composition. This suggests that targeted interventions should avoid the aggregation of unfamiliar peers because of the risk of knowledge exchange. However, as this study has shown, diffusion may not be the central process at work here, as the aggregation of entrenched peer groups may be equally conducive to the emergence of iatrogenic effects.
As a result the composition of targeted interventions needs to be meticulously crafted, striking a balance between exposing participants to new peers that bring novel forms of deviancy and recruiting them as part of established friendships. Although the intention of this study was to theorise the conditions under which iatrogenic effects may manifest within targeted SEL interventions, the data are based on a limited number of cases.
However, despite some limitations in generalisability these cases were instructive in the development of theoretical propositions which could be explored across other educational contexts Yin, The most methodologically and scientifically robust approach for verifying these theoretical propositions and testing identified iatrogenic mechanisms is to conduct subgroup analysis of outcome data from randomised controlled trials. Subgroups may comprise the targeting criteria employed and the subsequent intervention configuration. Data from process evaluations will be required to map the targeting process.
While targeted SEL interventions have the potential to confer benefits, they also have the capacity to cause iatrogenic effects.
This study has identified four key mechanisms through which these adverse outcomes may emerge. These relate to students responses to being identified as in need of intervention, and their reaction to intervention group composition. These findings suggest the need for further research to identify the factors that contribute to iatrogenic effects.
This research may inform the development of more effective intervention approaches and ensure that educational contexts are supportive of programme processes and outcomes Macgowen and Wagner, Equally, this study highlights the necessity of engaging in more critical examination of SEL interventions, and the need to recognise the importance of foregrounding participants lived experiences.
Volume 41 , Issue 3.
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