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New York City Independent School Students

Currently there is little research surrounding the challenges faced by New York City’s independent school student population. What we do know is that similar populations in suburban settings have higher rates of substance use than the national average, as well as higher rates of depression and anxiety. This research, as well as our own extensive assessments of New York City independent schools, has helped us identify the following risk factors:

Academics and Competition

Independent and private schools present a highly competitive academic and social environment unparalleled in other populations. Research shows that the pressures in affluent school communities can cause students to value external indicators of success over their own internal needs and development. As a result, students may not be emotionally prepared for their next level of schooling, and may also have challenges with managing stress and utilizing healthy coping skills.

Social Norms

Research demonstrates that independent school students face unique challenges regarding expectations about masculinity and femininity, racial identity, socio-economic status, and other social identifiers. These messages teach students about what types of people and behaviors are seen as valued within their community, and can have a profound influence on students’ self-esteem, relationships and overall connection to school.  Our work helps students resist the peer pressures associated with these dynamics and supports schools in creating inclusive and empowering environments.

Developmental Factors

Adolescence is a time of unique struggle.  And growing up in New York City brings its own mix of challenges to negotiate and experiences to understand.  We offer programming that is tailored to particular stages of adolescence and addresses the specific needs of young people growing up in New York City.

Our comprehensive assessment process is tailored to not only filling in the research gaps surrounding this population, but honing in on the needs of these students on a school-by-school basis.

The Research

Strategic Prevention

Best practices within prevention research tell us that the kinds of programs that have traditionally been utilized to discourage risky behaviors – programs that emphasize scare tactics, facts and statistics, and cautionary tales – are ineffective because they do not address the underlying stressors and cultural messages that motivate risky behaviors. Whether we are looking at substance use, microaggressions and harassment, or anxiety and perfectionism, research shows that in order to prevent risky and destructive behaviors, we need to address harmful norms and attitudes and foster social and emotional health within individuals and their communities.

Affluent Culture Research

Research on substance use and other high-risk behaviors has established that young people growing up in the culture of affluence face a significant amount of pressure to be successful, and that the stress caused by this pressure (especially when coupled with more unsupervised time, increased access to drugs and alcohol, and rigid gender norms) puts these young people at a heightened level of risk for negative behaviors and mental health outcomes.



The American Psychological Association: The Price of Affluence

Preventing Substance Use and Addiction

APA Guidelines for Working with Men and Boys

The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values