PolyU and NGOs develop innovative and effective intervention services to help families cope with adversity
11 May 2023
To help families cope with stress and adversity, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), with the support of The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, has partnered with Hong Kong Children and Youth Services, Hong Kong Family Welfare Society, The Salvation Army, and Tung Wah Group of Hospitals to deliver a three–year project ‘Jockey Club “Promoting Family Resilience” Project’ (the Project). Since 2021, the Project has launched various programmes including an e-learning training course on family resilience and community-based family intervention services to help families respond to changes and disruptions brought about by the pandemic and adapt to the constantly changing social environment.
Family resilience is the ability of a family to cope with and adapt to challenging situations and external threats; it includes family cohesion and flexibility, open family communication, and a shared sense of purpose and positive outlook. By developing family resilience, families can better navigate difficult circumstances and maintain a sense of stability, mutual support and positive communication even in the face of adversity.
The e-learning training course is a 12-hour tailor-made e-learning program from which parents can learn about the concepts of family resilience, reflect on their own family situation and capacity, and apply family resilience strategies in their daily life. Eight months after the launch of the training course, there have been over 5,000 beneficiaries. Prof. Daniel SHEK, Associate Vice President (Undergraduate Programme), Chair Professor of Applied Social Sciences, and Li and Fung Professor in Service Leadership Education of PolyU, said over 97% of the participants reported that they acquired the concepts of family resilience and had a better understanding of their own family characteristics, and 95% found that they face adversity more positively and were more willing to shoulder the burdens of other family members. Moreover, those participants who had completed the 12-hour modules showed a decrease in personal stress, anxiety and depression, and an increase in family resilience including more positive family values and stronger optimistic beliefs, more cohesion and flexibility among family members, and better family communication and problem-solving capabilities. The project team also conducted a quasi-experimental study to assess the effectiveness of the training course by comparing an experimental group (i.e., those who had completed the e-learning course) and a comparison group (i.e., those who had not joined the course). The experimental group reported a decrease in anxiety and depressive symptoms, and an increase in family resilience after participating in the programmes, when compared with the comparison group.
What also makes the Project unique are the community-based family intervention programmes which also aim to enhance family resilience in the community. Over the past two years, over 7,000 families have joined these programmes. Four such programmes have been developed jointly by the collaborating NGOs and PolyU, and implemented by the NGOs. They incorporate different programme designs and concepts of family resilience: 1) family adventure-based training; 2) family-based art workshops; 3) family photo albums; and 4) mindful journeys for families. The programmes comprise six-sessions and include group sessions and outdoor activities, with entire families invited to participate. Nearly 900 families have joined these programmes in the past two years. Dr Janet LEUNG, Associate Professor of Applied Social Sciences of PolyU, said programme evaluation showed that 97% of participants reported that they were more optimistic in facing adversity, communicated better and developed mutual support among their family members. Furthermore, participants showed a decrease of mental health symptoms (stress, anxiety and depression) among family members, and an increase in family resilience (positive family beliefs, family flexibility and cohesion, and family communication and collaborative problem-solving). Moreover, results of a quasi-experimental study indicated that an experimental group (i.e., those families that joined the programmes) showed a decrease in anxiety, an increase in family resilience and better marital satisfaction after participation, when compared with the comparison group (i.e., those families that did not join our programmes).
Families in Hong Kong still face different challenges and difficulties during the post-pandemic stage. The prolonged pandemic has taken a significant toll on individual and family mental health. The unpredictable economic condition with high inflation has also created worries within families. Moreover, when schools resume normal, families may need to adjust to new routines again and, in managing learning loss, parents and children are anxious to catch up, which can cause significant stress. In facing the challenges ahead, it is clear that family-based programmes that effectively promote family resilience are essential. The Project will help Hong Kong families better understand and enhance their resilience. It also hopes to train professionals including social workers and psychologists to further optimise intervention services to help families cope with adversity.
Dr Janet Leung
Associate Professor, Department of Applied Social Sciences
- 2766 7944
Ms Annie Wong
Manager, Communications and Public Affairs
- 3400 3853