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The isolation of a child by his peers during his junior secondary school years may influence the child‟s participation in school activities and this in turn may influence his overall performance in school and his performance later in life. To this effect, the study sought to investigate the effects of individual and group counselling on the adjustment of social isolates among secondary school students. The study was guided by five research questions and five hypotheses tested at 0.05 level of significance. A true experimental study which adopted the pretest and posttest only design was adopted for the study. A total of 20 identified social isolates were used for the study, using purposive sampling technique to draw subjects from 2 co-educational schools. The instrument for data collection was an 18-item questionnaire which was titled- Social Isolates Adjustment Scale (SIAS). The instrument was validated by three experts, all from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The reliability of the instrument was determined using Crobnbach Alpha statistics and an estimated value of 0.83 and 0.85 were obtained for the two clusters. The isolates in the two experimental groups were pretested with SIAS before receiving appropriate treatments on individual and group counselling. After the treatments, SIAS was re-administered on both groups as posttest. Mean and standard deviation were used to answer the five research questions generated while Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was used to test the five hypotheses posed. It was found that: there was no significant difference in the effects of treatment using individual and group counselling on social isolates mean adjustment scores, however, the two treatment groups had positive effect on the adjustment of social isolates as shown by their pre-test – post-test mean gain scores. Also, gender and location had no significant influence on the adjustment of social isolates. It was recommended that curriculum planners, educational psychologists and school guidance counsellors should plan a programme of intervention based on the principles of individual and group counselling training techniques for isolates in school; and the federal and state Ministries of Education should organize and sponsor workshops and seminars for educational psychologists and school guidance counsellors on how to implement individual and group counselling training techniques.



Background of the Study

Human beings by nature have a need for group life or social contact. Indeed, there are certain goals or projects that require efforts of others to achieve, and because humans need social and psychological support from their fellows in certain conditions, they naturally tend towards the formation of themselves into social group. As a social animal, man maximizes his potentials and reaches his full capacity in development only in the context of association with others (Igbo, 2003). Social isolation, on the contrary, tends to stifle human development and leads to physical, mental, and emotional retardation.
Social isolation is the act of withdrawing from society in general (Adams, 2007). In such situation, there is usually not much interaction with other people; illness and phobias are major factors in social isolates. According to Ifelunni (1997), an isolate is the individual who is psychologically distant from other members of the class or group. He may have an inferiority complex and because of that people disregard him. However, this individual makes some choices, that is, he is ready to associate with others but no person is ready to associate with him. It is a pitiable situation and the alert teacher or counsellor should be aware of this.
Isolate behaviour is a social phenomenon that has a number of important implications for students as well as institutions. Isolate behaviour, according to Nwoye (2007) is a form of social problem where an individual continually distant himself from a given social group of which he ordinarily belongs. Such a group could be an institution, peer group or academic. Therefore, a social isolate is that individual who distances himself from society as a result of psychological problem such as inferiority complex, anxiety, panic attacks, among others. Social isolation can contribute towards many emotional, behavioural and physical disorder including: heightened anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, addictions, substance abuse, violent behaviour.

This affects the physical and social needs of children. The physical and social needs at birth and at later stages of development have far reaching effects upon individuals in their later lives (Chidume 2003). These needs sometimes create a stage of restlessness or tension in the individual and are only reduced when an appropriate satisfier is reached. According to Blair (2006), defects, such as poor eyesight, defective hearing, diseased teeth, defective speech organs and other physical deformities can greatly influence the learning adjustment of school children.

The child who possesses some physical defect or disease is frequently affected by the psychological consequences of his physical condition, and such a child might be rejected by his playmates and as a result of his rejection, the child might withdraw or isolate himself from associating with other children and consequently fail to learn the social skills necessary for later adjustment.
Adjustment is a renewal to emphasize the individuals struggle to get along or survive in his or her environment (Nweze 2001). According to Maslow and Mittleman (2001), the adjustment of a person is the characteristic way in which the individual involved perceives, reacts to, and solves the main problems of life. In other words, the essential characteristic of the concept of adjustment is that, it is the solution of problems. Adjustment in the context of this study is the application of the essential skills to triumph over life contingencies.

This involves how people live a healthy and emotionally balanced lifestyle. It also involves how people relate well with the demands of the individuals to strive to satisfy their personal needs as well as deal with the demands and constrains that are placed on them by their environment such as the school. The school has a lot of impact on the adjustment behaviour pattern of the students. Thus, no learning can take place without proper adjustment. School adjustment therefore, refers to the ability of students to cope effectively with the internal and external demands of school environment.


Such internal and external demands includes; obeying rules and regulations, neatness, punctuality, taking instructions, participating in all school activities both curricular and extra-curricular activities including contacts and acceptance from others. Children need acceptance by their age mates and by adults. Children need to feel important and to have their accomplishment admired by others, and children need to feel that they are part of a group, that is, they need to have a sense of belonging (Igbo 2003).

Clearly, an overwhelming account of a child‟s total school experience involves social contacts with other pupils – contact that produces many kinds of social learning and many diverse influences on his developing personality and adjustment. Adverse social influences manifest themselves in social failure, unhappiness and maladjustment (Igbo 2003). This could lead to poor performance.
Personal and research experiences indicate evidence of poor performance and maladjustment occasioned by social isolation among secondary school students in Nsukka. The result of the pilot study conducted by Eze (1999) indicates that the major reason junior secondary school students in Nsukka zone are socially isolated by their peers is because of inferiority complex.

The isolation of a child by his peers during his junior secondary school years may influence the child‟s participation in school activities and this in turn may influence his overall performance in school and his later life performance. Many children in Nigeria who are isolated by their peers at the early stage in life may become frustrated, develop inferiority complex and consequently lose self-confidence. The cost of this on the nation‟s social and economic stability cannot be overlooked.

As a result of these, there is the need for individual and group counselling in Nigerian schools, especially at the junior secondary school level. To do this, social isolates must be identified and counseled for positive adjustment. Counselling is therefore important to help them to explore their abilities, skills, interests, as well as their limitations. This is necessary to make them develop self confidence and be acceptable to their peers.
The major cause of student‟s difficulties in social learning is lack of social acceptance (Gronlund and Anderson (2000); Finberget (2002) and Goertzen (2006).

The researchers found that children of low social acceptance tend to lack desirable and positive personality traits whereas children with high social acceptance among peers tend to exhibit desirable and positive personality traits. Moreover, children who are not socially accepted by their peers tend to display such undesirable characteristics as showing off, attention seeking, nervousness, emotional instability and restlessness. They also show less favourable teacher ratings, more resentment toward group control, and lack of self-control.

It is possible that the undesirable characteristics of the non-socially accepted are partially the cause of lack of social acceptance. It is also likely that a lack of social acceptance helps to produce much of the unacceptable behaviour.
This strongly suggests that one important role of the teacher and the counsellor is to break into the vicious cycle where lack of acceptance by peers helps to produce unacceptable behaviour and unacceptable behaviour tends to generate lack of peer acceptance. However, inappropriate behaviour can be minimized or extinguished through behaviour intervention or modification.

Different types, of behaviour modification techniques like psychodrama, role therapy, relaxation training, aversive therapy, reinforcement, systematic desensitization have been used for intervention on maladaptive behaviour among school children (Nickarson, 2002). Chidume (2003) have also suggested that psychological principles and the experiences of counsellors and those who have worked with social isolates support the following techniques for helping rejected and isolated children achieve a place in the class group.

These techniques include, finding special skills, training in skills, (already acquired), discussion, using peer helpers and group guidance. Besides, all the techniques are used within the two broad counselling approaches, namely, individual and group counseling, hence the researcher has elected to investigate the relative effect of the two on the adjustment of social isolate. This perhaps, becomes more expedient bearing in mind that the area of social isolates adjustment appears somewhat neglected.
Individual and group counselling are indispensable in the helping profession. This is because, a client can move in any direction of the counselling process to seek help. That means that a client in group counselling can seek individual counselling to enable him solve a particular problem; and an individual in individual counselling can receive solution to his problem by joining the group counselling.

Moreover, individual counselling can be a first step in group counselling whereby individuals are identified for group work and where on the other hand, individuals who are unable to function in the group process can be identified for individual counselling. More importantly, the problem of the isolate and by implication solution cannot be perfectly understood and sought in the absence of individual counselling (to get to the root of his problem) and group counselling to play out outrightly the deficiencies in his interactions.
Individual counselling is a one-to-one relationship between the client and the counsellor geared towards assisting the client not only to get his problems solved but also to learn how to solve similar problems himself (Okeke 2002). To effectively carry out this function, the counselling exercise should take place in a private office that is devoid of noise. According to Anagbogu (2005), individual counselling is a way of offering opportunities to individuals in such a way that a one-to-one relationship will occur.

In such relationships, the counsellor would accept and tolerate the client/student in a way that the counsellor would be free from advising or judging the individual. Individual counselling in the context of this study therefore, is one-on-one interactions between a counsellor and client with the sole aim of assisting the client to solve his/her problem. Individual counselling is highly specialized. Individual counselling affords the counsellor the opportunity to provide counselling relationship capable of changing personality growth.

The idea is to help the client to recognize his own needs and values, to see how these affect the personal goal and arrange them in order of priority, to discover the possible courses of action which may bring him closer to the goals he seeks.
However, just as individual counselling can be carried on a one-to-one basis, group counselling is used with more than one client at a time. According to Okobiah and Okorodudu (2006:184-185), group counselling is a counselling mode involving a counsellor and four to ten clients. There is no agreement as to the maximum number of clients likewise the minimum number.

However, because of the nature of professional counselling involved in large number of client more than ten will be too unwieldy for the counsellor and the clients. A safer maximum limit may be eight while for effective interaction of the group a minimum of four clients is appropriate. Emphasis on group counseling is on the sharing and remediating of problems through group participation.
Group counselling is the mode of counselling organized for a group of students to help them prevent or solve problems in the educational, vocational, personal and social areas (Okeke, 2002). Unlike individual counselling, group counselling takes about minimum of 15 and maximum of 20 or more persons, (Okeke, 2002).

According to Anagbogu (2005), group guidance refers to a process of interaction that occurs in a large group that facilitates development of healthy attitudes and behaviour in a way that individuals who participate in it gain new information, new orientation to problem, such as vocational, occupational, academic and social problems. Group counselling therefore, is made up of “normal” individuals with varying concerns who are given all understanding, care, respect and support to help them either to learn or unlearn certain attitudes and behaviours. Group counselling in the context of this study therefore refers to a process of interaction that occurs in a large group that facilitates development of healthy attitudes and behaviour in a way that individuals who participate in it gain new information, new orientation to problem such as vocational, academic or social problems.
However, certain variables like gender and location have been found to moderate certain treatment outcomes on students maladaptive behaviour. For instance, Lewis (2000) used models with elementary pupils who were social isolates, and found that behavioural group counselling was effective with those pupils who are socially isolated. Warner (2001) also demonstrated the effectiveness of positive-reinforcement and group counselling on discrepant students in urban, suburban and rural areas and found that the techniques were effective in handling discrepant students.

Based on this, let us look at the concept of gender and school location and relate it to the subject of study and see how it influence treatment outcomes on the social isolates. Gender is the condition of being masculine or feminine through one‟s behaviour. Gender is a set of characteristic distinguishing between male and female, particularly in the cases of men and women (Guinand and Lemessa, 2000). Gender is determined by the conception of tasks, functions and roles attributed to women and men in society and in public and private life (Gawater 2011). In the present study, gender means socially defined roles for men and women in a society.

School location refers to the place where a school is sited. It is called the geographic location of the school (Jones, 2002). Some secondary schools in Enugu state are located in urban area while some are located in the rural areas. Here, urban area means township or metropolitan part of Nsukka Education zone. Rural area here means local area or an underdeveloped part of Nsukka Education zone.
It is against this background that the present study sought to investigate the effect of individual and group counselling on the adjustment of social isolates in Nsukka area of Enugu state of Nigeria.




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