Teens at Risk and Baalei Teshuva Parents

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.

You can see a synopsis of the study. In addition, there is a Power Point of the presentation.

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.

6 comments on “Teens at Risk and Baalei Teshuva Parents

  1. Last week’s Mishpacha ( the portion geared for women), included a fictional story by a mother who was crying bitter tears about her daughter’s goingg OTD and her wedding, which was not what we would expect the atmosphere and tone of a daughter of a Torah observant family.

    IMO, the article was simplistic because the author , in her dissapointment over her daughter’s choices, seemed to neglect a very important factor-The OTD phenomenon is rooted in the triage of family, community and schools. No one element is dispositive and parents should neither blame themselves nor as Rabbi Ronnie Greenwald has emphasized, view their children who have chosen such a path as a Ben Sorer UMorer.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Mark.
    I, also, found Dr. Rabbi Westreich’s remarks regarding the study to be a good follow up to the Pelovitz/Kahn presentation.

  3. I wrote of unwarranted fear that such studies will cause problems for BT’s. Obviously, the investigators should present constructive solutions to existing problems.

  4. Not really. When I voiced my concerns to Dr Pelcovitz, he told me he does not like to pathologize problems, but rather present solutions. If you listen to others who spoke about the study, you’ll see that they were very focused on the problems of BTs.

    In fact the whole study was commissioned to find the BT problems when in fact at-risk teens are just as big a problem for FFBs. I’m all for more parenting classes, but the BT focus needs to be good and getting better as opposed to deficient and needs improvement.

  5. I hope this ends the baseless fear that all professional studies involving BT’s will cause problems for BT’s.

  6. Rabbi Dr. Nosson Westreich discussed the above points of the AJOP study last week in Toronto(“Panel Discussion: On, Off and After the Derech – When Religion and Family Collide”).

    See link here.

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