Disaster recovery and resilience for youth

November 13, 2015
Megan Catalano
Tags: research
Dr. Leila Scannell

Youth affected by natural disasters often experience a devastating loss of place. This loss presents unique challenges in youths’ resilience and recovery because they rely on place for various aspects of their development.

Royal Roads University is developing solutions to those challenges through the Resilience by Design Research Lab (RbD lab) and thanks to the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, more resources will be allocated toward these efforts. Environmental psychologist Dr. Leila Scannell is a recipient this year of the prestigious fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and will examine the role of place in children and youth’s disaster experiences, recovery and resilience.

“Receiving the Banting Fellowship was possible given that Royal Roads’ Dr. Robin Cox recently established the active RbD lab focusing on youth resilience in the context of disasters and climate change,” says Scannell. “I bring strong quantitative skills in environmental psychology to Dr. Cox's creative action research approach. It’s been a wonderful learning experience and I’m happy to be part of such a productive and creative team.”

Dr. Scannell says children and youth are among the most vulnerable to the stress of a natural disaster, yet little is known about how they become resilient to its negative impacts, cope in the short-term and recover in the long-term.

The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program has a highly competitive application process providing funding to the successful national and international postdoctoral applicants who will positively contribute to Canada’s economic, social and research‑based growth. One of the main application criteria is the alignment of research priorities for the host institution. 

Royal Roads School of Humanitarian Studies Professor and Disaster and Emergency Management Program Head Dr. Robin Cox has been researching and working extensively in the area of disaster recovery and resilience since 2003 and has created the Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience research project and the youth resilience stream of the Alberta Resilient Communities project.

"Dr. Scannell’s proposed research is a natural extension of the recently completed Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience project with youth in Canada and the US, and it also aligns with the ongoing activities of the Resilience by Design Lab,” says Cox. “Her focus on place attachment, youth, disaster recovery and resilience represents an important contribution to psychology and disaster sociology, providing a critical and missing piece to theoretical frameworks of resilience and disaster recovery."

Through the first-ever Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship held at Royal Roads, Scannell’s research will focus on youth aged 18 to 25 who experienced Alberta’s severe flooding in 2013 and will expand to include North American youth around age 15 who have faced different types of disasters.

“This is an excellent example of the solution-oriented and real-world focused applied research taking place at Royal Roads, and showcases our distinct role as a research university in B.C., ” says President and Vice-chancellor Allan Cahoon. “Dr. Scannell, Dr. Cox and her team’s commitment and dedication to their work is critical and will make a positive difference in the lives of youth and their communities.”

The results from Scannell’s research will inform practitioners and policy makers about how to more effectively support youth following natural disasters, and provide multi-media coping tools that will directly support youth, their families and their communities.