Back in October, the AJOP newsletter sent out an announcement about a study that would be presented by Dr David Pelcovitz on Teens at Risk and Baalei Teshuva. We wrote a post about it, and speculated about the results.
At the time, I was a little concerned about the study because I thought it would portray BTs in a negative light. I emailed Dr. Pelcovitz and shortly thereafter a had a conversation with him. He told me that this study and another study in Israel found that Teens from BT parents were not at greater risk of having problems than FFB parents.
As it turns out, the study was not focused on who was at greater risk BTs or FFBs, but rather what were the factors for BTs that lead to a higher chance of at-risk teens.
Here are the four major findings of the study:
1) Results showed parents report an adolescent of a baal teshuva family who is poorly integrated in the community will be at greater risk for behavioral difficulties.
2) Results showed that those adolescents of parents who exhibit rigid or chaotic (unhealthy) parenting style are reported by their parents as exhibiting higher levels of behavioral and emotional difficulties than adolescents whose parents exhibit an authoritative (healthy) parenting style, a balance of love and limits.
3) Results showed that adolescents of families that are either disengaged or enmeshed (unhealthy family structure) are reported by parents to exhibit higher levels of behavioral and emotional difficulties than adolescents whose families exhibit a balanced emotional connection (healthy family structure).
4) Results showed that if a parent reported becoming newly religious during his or her twenties or thirties, his or her child was reported as vulnerable for having more difficulties during adolescence.
Dr. Pelcovitz said that there were no real surprises in the study, but finding number 4 needed a little explanation.
A major take away that AJOP presented is that BTs should be provided with more parenting classes. In reality, the fact that FFBs have the same at-risk rate, means that FFBs probably should also strive to be better parents through parenting classes.
I’m glad that BTs were not found to be at greater risk as I originally feared. As a result of emailing Dr. Pelcovitz and speaking to the head of AJOP, Rabbi Lowenbraun, David and I got to present our BT observations at AJOP based on the 6 years of articles and comments from Beyond BT.
We had a decent size audience for both of our presentations and I’m not sure what the impact was. We did however speak to a number of people involved in Kiruv in preparation and we gained some more clarity on the issues facing BTs. We’ll post the summary of our presentation in the next few weeks.