Adult Learner

Systems Change

Factor Connections

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Safety is being and feeling physically and psychologically secure at home, at work, and within our neighborhood and larger community. Learners who feel safe are better able to focus. It is also important that adult learners who have had negative experiences in schooling feel safe enough to learn again.

Main Ideas

Adults living in unsafe environments during childhood may continue to face societal barriers as a result. There are several components of safety that may continue to impact learning in adulthood.

  • Bullying and Social-emotional Safety: Aggression (physical or verbal) and exclusionary behaviors can occur in a workplace, educational institution, or the broader community. Bullying in childhood can continue to affect adults' mental health. People who are bullied in person or online often experience higher rates of depression and anxiety.
  • Home Safety: Adults can feel unsafe at home for many reasons including experiencing abuse, witnessing violence, or having family members who suffer from substance abuse or severe mental illness. The traumatic effects of living in an unsafe home can in turn make it difficult for learners to reach their full potential. Women in particular may face greater abuse when engaging in adult education as a result of changing family dynamics.
  • Neighborhood and Campus Safety: Students who live in safer and more advantaged neighborhoods tend to have higher high school graduation rates than students who are exposed to violence and crime in their communities. Learners who live in unsafe neighborhoods may experience chronic stress that has implications for their mental health and leads to a number of negative outcomes. Learners may also feel anxiety or fear as a result of campus and public shootings in recent years.
  • Risk-taking: Adults may engage in risk-taking and unsafe behaviors themselves, including crime, alcohol, or drug use, that affect their ability to engage in learning activities. These behaviors may result from traumatic experiences or neural and cognitive differences, including those that contribute to ADHD.

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