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UJ social work expert on the resilience of youth transitions

Professorial Inaugural address: Prof Adrian van Breda

One of the important life transitions humans undergo is the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, called youth transitions. One group of young people for whom this is a particularly difficult transition is those transitioning out of the child welfare system towards independent living.

According to Adrian van Breda, a Professor in Social work within the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), these youth experience a range of vulnerabilities that tend to result in poor outcomes compared with youth who grew up at home.

Prof van Breda argued that not all care-leavers experience poor outcomes, raising the question of what facilitates better outcomes among some care-leavers when he delivered his inaugural address entitled ‘We are who we are through other people’: The interactional foundation of the resilience of youth leaving care in South Africa’ in the Council Chambers, Madibeng Building, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus on Wednesday, 28 February 2018.

Resilience theory seeks to understand the multilevel processes that systems engage in to obtain better-than-expected outcomes in the face or wake of adversity.

“Resilience processes or enablers are often categorised as either personal or environmental, but drawing on the social work notion of person-in-environment,” said Prof van Breda.

He argued that the interactions between people and people, and between people and systems, are the resilience-enabling mechanisms that are the foundation of the resilience and that contribute to resilient outcomes.

Prof van Breda based his address on his research opus, particularly his work over the past several years on leaving care, together with his students and research associates, to provide empirical support to the construct of interactional resilience, and to show the contribution that interactional resilience makes to improved care-leaving outcomes.

Prior to his appointment at UJ, Prof van Breda was an occupational social worker, social work researcher and health research manager for a total of 17 years. He studied social work at the University of Cape Town, graduating with distinction, and completed his Master’s in clinical social work at UCT in 1997, also with distinction. Prof van Breda’s clinical approach is informed primarily by psychodynamic and narrative therapies. He completed his doctorate at the former Rand Afrikaans University (now UJ) in 2004, on the subject of multicultural scale development in social work. His enduring research interest is in resilience: the resilience of families, organisations and youth transitioning out of care.

Prof van Breda is the most widely published social worker in South Africa on the subject of resilience, and has received an NRF research rating of C2 as a result. He is the president of ASASWEI (Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions), Editor of the Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development, and Vice President of the international resilience association called Resilio.

He has over 40 accredited publications, over 40 conference papers and two books to his name on subjects relating to resilience, youth in transition, families, assessment tools, occupational social work and clinical social work.

In addition, Prof van Breda holds two degrees in theology, is an external examiner at the Theological Education by Extension College, and is an ordained minister (Deacon) in the Anglican Church. In his spare time, Adrian plays the piano and sings.

Read Adrian van Breda’s full Professorial Inaugural address entitled: We are who we are through other people’: The interactional foundation of the resilience of youth leaving care in South Africa’


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