Turning to Creativity: A Grounded Theory Approach Towards Understanding the Relationship Between Wellness and the Arts for Adolescents
A growing body of research suggests that youths who attend highly competitive private schools experience chronic stress. This stress has been proven to hinder their academic success and mental health, and increase the likelihood of their engaging in risk behavior (Hardy, 2003; Suldo et al., 2008; Conner et al., 2009; Leonard et al., 2015). The purpose of this constructivist grounded theory study was to gain an enhanced understanding of the relationship between engagement in the arts and students' perceived stress at a highly competitive private school. A theory was developed that throws light on how students engage in artistically creative acts in order to develop a better sense of self and wellness. Three interrelated themes emerged: Learning to Grow and Stretch as Artists, which relates to how students' gain a sense of competence through the arts; Building Supportive and Meaningful Connections, which concerns the supportive and meaningful relationships that they build with their peers and mentors when participating in art activities; and Letting go of the Inner Critic and Discovering the Authentic Voice, which is connected with how the arts provide students with opportunities to garner a sense of autonomy, let go of their self-judgment, and adopt an open attitude. All three themes were found to be mediated by a sense of mindfulness that enabled the students to remain open to informational feedback, to become less defensive and more able to connect with others, and more likely to choose paths for themselves that they found to be truly engaging.