THE SCIENCE OF HOPE
Published with the permission of Dr. Chan Hellman and his Hope Centered and Trauma Informed LLC.
The below information is from an evaluation done by the University of Oklahoma’s Hope Research Center on Pathways to Hope for Children in a report titled: An Assessment of the Impact of Program Services on Parent Hope, Well-Being, and Relationship with their Children
Snyder’s (2002) hope theory has emerged as one of the most recognized frameworks conceptualizing hope as both a coping resource and psychological strength that promotes well-being. In this context, hope is a future based orientation where one can identify the pathways to goal achievement and marshal the motivation to pursue those pathways.
While desired goals are the cornerstone of Snyder’s hope theory, focus is given to the two components of pathways thinking and agency thinking. Pathways thinking refers to the ability to identify strategies or plans on how to achieve one’s goals. The hopeful person can identify multiple pathways to the desired goal and effectively conceive alternative pathways or solutions to potential barriers. Agency thinking refers to the mental energy we deploy toward our goal pursuits. The hopeful person has the agency to self-regulate their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions when selecting and pursuing their desired goals. Ultimately positive expectations regarding the pursuit of desired goals becomes the essence of hope.
Overall, the experience of hope has a positive influence on health and well-being. Those with higher hope tend to have lower levels of depression and higher positive affect and self-esteem. Hopeful individuals are less likely to ruminate on their trauma experiences making it easier to exert willpower toward positive outcomes (Hellman & Gwinn, 2017).
WHY FOCUS ON HOPE?
Human service agencies working with families are increasingly striving to provide an awareness, understanding, and responsiveness to trauma in an effort to reduce its impact and create positive outcomes for both parents and children. Trauma can have a direct, immediate, and overwhelming negative impact on the physical, psychological, and social well-being including the ability to achieve desired goals. A growing body of research demonstrates that hope can buffer anxiety and stress (Cheavens, Feldman, Gum,Michael, & Synder, 2006). Research based evidence shows that hope is an important psychological strength and coping resource. To that end, hope promotes a positive adaptation to change and is a strength that can be nurtured and sustained (Hellman and Gwinn, 2016). In this context, Pathways to Hope for Children is committed to being a hope centered and trauma informed organization striving to increase hope and well-being among the parents who receive program services.
RESULTS OF PATHWAYS TO HOPE FOR CHILDREN’S EVALUATION
This program assessment demonstrates that Pathways to Hope for Children successfully provides a hope centered and trauma informed approach to parent services. Across the board, increases in hope, flourishing, positive affect, and decreases in perceived stress and negative emotions all serve to highlight the positive effect Pathways to Hope is having on families.
These parents self-reported as high experienced a significantly higher rate of adversity during their childhood as evidenced by their Adverse Childhood Experience scores. In their own perception of the impact of program services at Pathways to Hope for Children, participating parent show significant improvements in their parent child relationship quality, and hope in their parenting.
In the evaluation of parent progress and change independent of parent survey responses, staff at Pathways to Hope identified parents as making positive progress and a high rate of being in the action stage of readiness to change. Further analyses demonstrated that the progress toward treatment outcomes and readiness to change have significant association with parent hope.
Pathways to Hope for Children programming gives parents and caregivers the tools, or pathways, to identify strategies and plans to achieve their goals. Furthermore, that the significant increases in hope are associated with improvements in parent child relationships and parent well-being.
- The evaluation demonstrated statistically significant improvements in parent hope, stress, affect, and flourishing.
- Independent of parent survey responses, Pathways to Hope for Children staff evaluated almost 90% of parents as having made positive progress towards their stated goals and treatment outcomes. Parents identified as making positive progress also reported significantly higher levels of hope.
- Similarly, almost 90% of parents were identified by staff as being in the action stage of readiness to change after receiving services. These parents also score significantly higher in hope.
ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES – ACES
The negative consequences associated with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) across the lifespan are well documented. ACEs cause chronic toxic stress that leads to neurological and biological changes, including changes in brain architecture and function, effects on the immune and hormonal systems, and even alterations to the way DNA is read and transcribed (Harris, 2014). Left untreated, those who have experienced child maltreatment are more likely to experience poor mental health, engage in risky behaviors, and suffer physical diseases related to increased morbidity. Unmitigated ACEs have negative effects on education, employment, and economic outcomes into adulthood. Unmitigated ACEs are also associated with increased delinquency rates and criminal behaviors (Anda et al., 2007; Bellis, Lowey, Leckenby, Hughes & Harrison, 2013; Currie & Wisdom, 2010; Dube et al., 2001a; Dube et al., 2001b; Gwinn, 2015; Hillis, Andra, Felitti & Marchbanks, 2001; Lanier, Kohl, Raghavan, & Auslander, 2015; Reavis, Looman, Franco, & Rojas, 2013; Wiliamson, Thompson, Andra, Dietz & Felitti, 2002).
STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT INCREASES IN HOPE
Adult Hope Scale. The Hope Scale is an 8-item scale that measures the extent to which the respondent feels motivated to obtain goals and whether they can construct pathways to attain those goals (Snyder et al., 1991). A total Hope score is derived by adding the scores from the eight items. An 8-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 = definitely false to 8 = definitely true, is used to measure the responses. Consistent with previous findings (e.g., Hellman, Pittman, & Munoz, 2013), the reliability estimates for the total Hope Scale for this sample was adequate (pre-test α = .84; post-test α = .83).
STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT INCREASES IN WELL-BEING
The graph below demonstrates parents’ scores on the Flourishing scale. Flourishing represents a well-being indicator associated with positive relationships, goal achievement, and finding meaning and purpose in life. Paired samples t-tests were computed to examine the differences in pre- and post-test scores. The results demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in flourishing among parents after receiving services at Pathways to Hope for Children [t (110) =-4.20; p <.000].
STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT INCREASES IN PARENT & CHILD RELATIONSHIP
In an attempt to assess the impact of program services on parent child relationship quality, parents were asked to report their hope in ability to parent, awareness of trauma on child development, and the overall quality of the relationship with the child. Paired samples t-test were computed for each comparison with Bonferroni correction for number of tests. As seen in the graph Hope in ability to parent showed statistically significant improvement [t(113) = -11.42; p < .001]. Awareness of trauma also showed statistically significant improvement [t(113) = -9.55; p < .001]. Finally, quality of parent child relationship also showed statistically significant improvement [t(107) = -8.35; p < .001]. Taken as a whole, these findings show a positive impact of parent services at Pathways to Hope for Children.
- The average Adverse Childhood Experience score for participants (5.04) was significantly higher than the national average (1.61).
- Overall, significant increases in parent outcomes were noted, including respondents’ perceptions on how hopeful they are in their ability to parent.
- Parents report the quality of their relationship with their child improved after receiving services.