Psychological resilience

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Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity. Stress and adversity can come in the shape of family or relationship problems, health problems, or workplace and financial stressors, among others.[1] Individuals demonstrate resilience when they can face difficult experiences and rise above them with ease. Resilience is not a rare ability; in reality, it is found in the average individual and it can be learned and developed by virtually anyone. Resilience should be considered a process, rather than a trait to be had.[2] There is a common misconception that people who are resilient experience no negative emotions or thoughts and display optimism in all situations. Contrary to this misconception, the reality remains that resiliency is demonstrated within individuals who can effectively and relatively easily navigate their way around crises and utilize effective methods of coping.[3][4][5][6] In other words, people who demonstrate resilience are people with positive emotionality; they are keen to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.[1]

Resilience is composed of particular factors attributed to an individual. There are numerous factors, which cumulatively contribute to a person’s resilience. The primary factor in resilience is having positive relationships inside or outside one’s family. It is the single most critical means of handling both ordinary and extraordinary levels of stress. These positive relationships include traits such as mutual, reciprocal support and caring. Such relationships aid in bolstering a person’s resilience. Studies show that there are several other factors which develop and sustain a person`s resilience:[7]

  1. The ability to make realistic plans and being capable of taking the steps necessary to follow through with them
  2. A positive self-concept and confidence in one’s strengths and abilities
  3. Communication and problem-solving skills
  4. The ability to manage strong impulses and feelings

These factors are not necessarily inherent; they can be developed in any individual and they promote resiliency.

Recently there has also been evidence that resilience can indicate a capacity to resist a sharp decline in other harm even though a person temporarily appears to get worse.[8][9]

There is also controversy about the indicators of good psychological and social development when resilience is studied across different cultures and contexts.[10][11][12] The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Resilience and Strength in Black Children and Adolescents,[13] for example, notes that there may be special skills that these young people and families have that help them cope, including the ability to resist racial prejudice. Researchers of indigenous health have shown the impact of culture, history, community values, and geographical settings on resilience in indigenous communities.[14] People who cope may also show "hidden resilience"[15] when they don’t conform with society’s expectations for how someone is supposed to behave (in some contexts, aggression may be required to cope, or less emotional engagement may be protective in situations of abuse).[16]

In all these instances, resilience is best understood as a process. It is often mistakenly assumed to be a trait of the individual, an idea more typically referred to as "resiliency."[17] Most research now shows that resilience is the result of individuals being able to interact with their environments and the processes that either promote well-being or protect them against the overwhelming influence of risk factors.[18] These processes can be individual coping strategies, or may be helped along by good families, schools, communities, and social policies that make resilience more likely to occur.[19] In this sense "resilience" occurs when there are cumulative "protective factors". These factors are likely to play a more and more important role the greater the individual’s exposure to cumulative "risk factors". The phrase "risk and resilience"' in this area of study is quite common.

Commonly used terms, which are closely related within psychology, are "psychological resilience," "emotional resilience," "hardiness", "resourcefulness," and "mental toughness." The earlier focus on individual capacity which Anthony[20] described as the "invulnerable child" has evolved into a more multilevel ecological perspective that builds on theory developed by Uri Bronfenbrenner (1979), and more recently discussed in the work of Michael Ungar (2004, 2008), Ann Masten (2001), and Michael Rutter (1987, 2008). The focus in research has shifted from "protective factors" toward protective "processes"; trying to understand how different factors are involved in both promoting well-being and protecting against risk. A related concept to psychological resilience is family resilience.

Background[edit]

Resilience is generally thought of as a “positive adaptation” after a stressful or adverse situation.[21] In other words, resilience is one’s ability to bounce back from a negative experience. The Children Institute explains that, “resilience research is focused on studying those who engage in life with hope and humor despite devastating losses.” It is important to note that resilience is not only about overcoming a deeply stressful situation, but also coming out of the said situation with “competent functioning”3. Resiliency allows a person to rebound from adversity as a strengthened and more resourceful person. Stress comes from many different sources in our lives. Stress can come from normal changes in our lives (birth of a child), unexpected events (winning the lottery or death of a loved one), developments in the world around us (poverty or crime), and daily hassles (traffic or waiting in line). No matter the stressor at hand resiliency allows an individual to adapt and prosper. Since the 1960-70’s resilience has become a more popular topic of discussion as researchers have become more aware of the implications of positive psychology. Resiliency is often defined in terms of negative, which is more of a traditional psychology method. However, resiliency also focuses on the potential for growth, which follows along with positive psychology methods.

Positive emotions[edit]

There is significant research found in the literature on the relationship between positive emotions and resilience. Studies show that maintaining positive emotions whilst facing adversity promote flexibility in thinking and problem solving. Positive emotions serve an important function in their ability to help an individual recover from stressful experiences and encounters. That being said, maintaining a positive emotionality aids in counteracting the physiological effects of negative emotions. It also facilitates adaptive coping, builds enduring social resources, and increases personal well-being.[7]

While some research indicates that psychological resilience is a relatively stable personality trait, new research suggests that positive emotions are critical to trait resilience. This is not to say that positive emotions are merely a by-product of resilience, but rather that feeling positive emotions during stressful experiences may have adaptive benefits in the coping process of the individual.[22] Empirical evidence for this prediction arises from research on resilient individuals who have a propensity for coping strategies that concretely elicit positive emotions, such as benefit-finding and cognitive reappraisal, humor, optimism, and goal-directed problem-focused coping. Individuals who tend to approach problems with these methods of coping may strengthen their resistance to stress by allocating more access to these positive emotional resources.[23]

Positive emotions not only have physical outcomes but also physiological ones. Some physiological outcomes caused by humor include improvements in immune system functioning and increases in levels of salivary immunoglobin A, a vital system antibody, which serves as the body’s first line of defense in respiratory illnesses.,[24][25] Moreover, other health outcomes include faster injury recovery rate and lower readmission rates to hospitals for the elderly, and reductions in a patient’s stay in the hospital, among many other benefits. A study was done on positive emotions in trait-resilient individuals and the cardiovascular recovery rate following negative emotions felt by those individuals. The results of the study showed that trait-resilient individuals experiencing positive emotions had an acceleration in the speed in rebounding from cardiovascular activation initially generated by negative emotional arousal, i.e. heart rate and the like.[26]

Science[edit]

Resilience is a dynamic process whereby individuals exhibit positive behavioral adaptation when they encounter significant adversity, trauma,[27] tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress.[28] It is different from strengths or developmental assets which are a characteristic of an entire population, regardless of the level of adversity they face. Under adversity, assets function differently (a good school, or parental monitoring, for example, have a great deal more influence in the life of a child from a poorly resourced background than one from a wealthy home with other options for support, recreation, and self-esteem).[29][30]

Resilience is a two-dimensional construct concerning both the exposure of adversity and the positive adjustment outcomes of that adversity.[31] This two-dimensional construct implies two judgments: one about a "positive adaptation" and the other about the significance of risk (or adversity).[32] One point of view about adversity could define it as any risks associated with negative life conditions that are statistically related to adjustment difficulties, such as poverty, children of mothers with schizophrenia, or experiences of disasters. Positive adaptation, on the other hand, is considered in a demonstration of manifested behaviour on social competence or success at meeting any particular tasks at a specific life stage, such as the absence of psychiatric distress after the September 11 terrorism attacks on the United States.[31] Ungar[8] argues that this standard definition of resilience could be problematic because it does not adequately account for cultural and contextual differences in how people in other systems express resilience. Through collaborative mixed methods research in eleven countries, Ungar and his colleagues at the Resilience Research Centre have shown that cultural and contextual factors exert a great deal of influence on the factors that affect resilience among a population of youths-at-risk.[33][34]

Resilience has been shown to be more than just the capacity of individuals to cope well under adversity.[citation needed] Resilience is better understood as the opportunity and capacity of individuals to navigate their way to psychological, social, cultural and physical resources that may sustain their well-being, and their opportunity and capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided and experienced in culturally meaningful ways.[35] Studies of demobilized young soldiers, high school drop-outs, urban poor, immigrant youth, and other populations at risk are showing these patterns.[36][37][38] Among adults, these same themes emerge, as detailed in the work of Zautra, Hall and Murray (2010).[18]

History[edit]

Garmezy (1973) published the first research findings on resilience. He used epidemiology, which is the study of who gets ill, who does not, and why, to uncover the risks and the protective factors that now help define resilience.[39] Garmezy and Streitman (1974) then created tools to look at systems that support development of resilience.[40]

Emmy Werner (1982) was one of the early scientists to use the term resilience in the 1970s. She studied a cohort of children from Kauai, Hawaii. Kauai was quite poor and many of the children in the study grew up with alcoholic or mentally ill parents. Many of the parents were also out of work.[41] Werner noted that of the children who grew up in these very bad situations, two-thirds exhibited destructive behaviors in their later teen years, such as chronic unemployment, substance abuse, and out-of-wedlock births (in case of teenage girls). However one-third of these youngsters did not exhibit destructive behaviours. Werner called the latter group 'resilient'.[42] Resilient children and their families had traits that made them different from non-resilient children and families.

Resilience emerged as a major theoretical and research topic from the studies of children of schizophrenic mothers in the 1980s.[43] In Masten’s (1989) study,[44] the results showed that children with a schizophrenic parent may not obtain comforting caregiving compared to children with healthy parents, and such situations had an impact on children’s development. However, some children of ill parents thrived well and were competent in academic achievement, and therefore led researchers to make efforts to understand such responses to adversity.

In the onset of the research on resilience, researchers have been devoted to discovering the protective factors that explain people’s adaptation to adverse conditions, such as maltreatment,[45] catastrophic life events,[46] or urban poverty.[47] The focus of empirical work then has been shifted to understand the underlying protective processes. Researchers endeavor to uncover how some factors (e.g. family) may contribute to positive outcomes.[47]

Expressions[edit]

Resilience can be described by viewing:

  1. Good outcomes despite high-risk status,
  2. Constant competence under stress,
  3. Recovery from trauma,[43] and
  4. Using challenges for growth that makes future hardships more tolerable.

Resilience describes the people who adapt successfully even though they experience risk factors that ‘stack the odds’ against them showing good developmental outcomes. Risk factors are related to poor or negative outcomes. For example, poverty, low socioeconomic status, and mothers with schizophrenia are correlated with lower academic achievement and more emotional or behavioral problems. Risk factors may be cumulative, carrying additive and exponential risks when they co-occur.[43] Even when these risk factors occur in the lives of children, resilient individuals are those who show developmental competence nonetheless. They avoid the negative outcomes that are usually associated with those risk factors. These positive outcomes are attributed to some protective factors, such as good parenting or positive school experiences.[48]

Resilience is usually thought of as the end product of an effective coping mechanism(s) when people are under stress, such as divorce. In this context, resilience describes sustained competence exhibited by individuals who experience challenging conditions. For example, most children who experience parental divorce (a risk factor) go on to show competent development in age-salient developmental tasks (e.g., good conduct, success at school, having friendships). Protective factors usually distinguish resilient children from non-resilient ones who experience the same adversity. Resilience, itself, is not a protective factor. Rather, protective factors suggest adaptive systems or processes in the person's life that allow them to show competence despite the threats of risk factors. Some protective factors for children in single-family, for example, are adults caring for children during or after major stressors (e.g., divorce), or self-efficacy for motivating endeavor at adaptation.

Finally, resilience can be viewed as the phenomenon of recovery from a prolonged or severe adversity, or from an immediate danger or stress.[49][50] In this case, resilience is not related to vulnerability. People who experience acute trauma, for example, may show extreme anxiety, sleep problems, and intrusive thoughts. Over time, these symptoms decrease and recovery is likely. This realm of research shows that age and the supportive qualities of the family influence the condition of recovery. The Buffalo Creek dam disaster, for example, had longer effects on older children than on younger.[51] Additionally, children with supportive families show fewer symptoms (e.g., dreams of personal death) than children from troubled families, as revealed by a study on victims of the 1976 Chowchilla, California bus kidnapping.[52]

Related factors[edit]

Several factors are found to modify the negative effects of adverse life situations. Many studies show that the primary factor is to have relationships that provide care and support, create love and trust, and offer encouragement, both within and outside the family. Additional factors are also associated with resilience, like the capacity to make realistic plans, having self-confidence and a positive self image, developing communications skills, and the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.[53]

Another protective factor is related to moderating the negative effects of environmental hazards or a stressful situation in order to direct vulnerable individuals to optimistic paths, such as external social support. More specifically Werner (1995)[54] distinguished three contexts for protective factors:

  1. personal attributes, including outgoing, bright, and positive self-concepts;
  2. the family, such as having close bonds with at least one family member or an emotionally stable parent; and
  3. the community, such as receiving support or counsel from peers.

Furthermore, a study of the elderly in Zurich, Switzerland, illuminated the role humor plays as a coping mechanism to maintain a state of happiness in the face of age-related adversity.[55]

Besides the above distinction on resilience, research has also been devoted to discovering the individual differences in resilience. Self-esteem, ego-control, and ego-resiliency are related to behavioral adaptation.[56] For example, maltreated children who feel good about themselves may process risk situations differently by attributing different reasons to the environments they experience and, thereby, avoid producing negative internalized self-perceptions. Ego-control is "the threshold or operating characteristics of an individual with regard to the expression or containment"[57] of their impulses, feelings, and desires. Ego-resilience refers to "dynamic capacity,……to modify his or her model level of ego-control, in either direction, as a function of the demand characteristics of the environmental context"[58]

Maltreated children who experienced some risk factors (e.g., single parenting, limited maternal education, or family unemployment), showed lower ego-resilience and intelligence than nonmaltreated children. Furthermore, maltreated children are more likely than nonmaltreated children to demonstrate disruptive-aggressive, withdraw, and internalized behavior problems. Finally, ego-resiliency, and positive self-esteem were predictors of competent adaptation in the maltreated children.[56]

Demographic information (e.g., gender) and resources (e.g., social support) are also used to predict resilience. Examining people's adaptation after the 9/11 attacks[59] showed women were associated with less likelihood of resilience than men. Also, individuals who were less involved in affinity groups and organisations showed less resilience. King, King, Fairbank, Keane, and Adams (1998) studied resilience in Vietnam War veterans and found social support to be a major factor contributing to resilience.[60]

Schnurr, Lunney, and Sengupta (2004) found that several protective factors among those were the following factors protecting against the development of PTSD:

  • Japanese-American ethnicity, high school degree or college education, older age at entry to war, higher socioeconomic status, and a more positive paternal relationship as premilitary factors
  • Social support at homecoming and current social support as postmilitary factors[61] and the following factors protecting among the maintenance of PTSD
  • Native Hawaiian or Japanese-American ethnicity and college education as premilitary factors
  • Current social support as postmilitary factor[61]

A number of other factors that promote resilience have been identified:

  • The ability to cope with stress effectively and in a healthy manner
  • Having good problem-solving skills
  • Seeking help
  • Holding the belief that there is something one can do to manage your feelings and cope
  • Having social support
  • Being connected with others, such as family or friends
  • Self-disclosure of the trauma to loved ones
  • Spirituality
  • Having an identity as a survivor as opposed to a victim
  • Helping others
  • Finding positive meaning in the trauma[62]

Certain aspects of religions and spirituality may, hypothetically, promote or hinder certain psychological virtues that increase resilience. Research has not established connection between spirituality and resilience. According to the 4th edition of Psychology of Religion by Hood, et al., the "study of positive psychology is a relatively new development...there has not yet been much direct empirical research looking specifically at the association of religion and ordinary strengths and virtues".[63] In a review of the literature on the relationship between religiosity/spirituality and PTSD, amongst the significant findings, about half of the studies showed a positive relationship and half showed a negative relationship between measures of religiosity/spirituality and resilience.[64] The United States Army has received criticism for promoting spirituality in its new [Comprehensive Soldier Fitness] program as a way to prevent PTSD, due to the lack of conclusive supporting data.

An emerging field in the study of resilience is the neurobiological basis of resilience to stress.[65] For example, neuropeptide Y (NPY) and 5-Dehydroepiandrosterone (5-DHEA) are thought to limit the stress response by reducing sympathetic nervous system activation and protecting the brain from the potentially harmful effects of chronically elevated cortisol levels respectively.[66] In addition, the relationship between social support and stress resilience is thought to be mediated by the oxytocin system's impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.[67]

Grit[edit]

Grit refers to the perseverance and passion for long term goals.[68] This is characterized as working persistently towards challenges, maintained effort and interest over years despite negative feedback, adversity, plateaus in progress, or failure.[69] High grit people view accomplishments as a marathon rather than an immediate goal. High grit individuals normally earn higher GPAs in school, and make fewer career changes than less gritty individuals.[70]

Grit affects the effort a person contributes by acting on the importance pathway.[71] When people value a goal as more valuable, meaningful, or relevant to their self-concept they are willing to expend more effort on it when necessary.[72] The influence of individual differences in grit results in different levels of effort-related cardiac activity when gritty and less gritty individuals performed the same task.[73] Grit is associated with differences in potential motivation, one pathway in motivational intensity theory.[74] Grit may also influence an individual’s perception of task difficulty.[75]

Grit was highly correlated with the Big Five conscientiousness trait.[76] Conscientious people are characterized as thorough, careful, reliable, organized, industrious, and self-controlled.[77] Although grit and conscientiousness highly overlap in their achievement aspects, they differ in their emphasis. Grit emphasizes long term stamina, whereas conscientiousness focuses on short term intensity.[78]

Grit varies with level of education and age. More educated adults tend to be higher in grit than less educated individuals of the same age.[79] Post college graduates report higher grit levels than most other education level groups.[80] Grit increases with age when education level is controlled for.[81]

In life achievements, grit may be as important as talent. College students at an elite university who scored high in grit also earned higher GPAs than their classmates, despite having lower SAT scores.[82] In a study at the West Point military academy it was found that grit was a more reliable predictor of first summer retention than self-control or a summary measure of cadet quality.[83] Gritty competitors at the Scripps National Spelling Bee outranked other competitors who scored lower in grit, at least partially due to accumulated practice.[84]

Grit may also serve as a protective factor against suicide. A study at Stanford University found that grit was predictive of psychological health and well-being in medical residents.[85] Gritty individuals possess self-control and regular commitment to goals that allows them to resist impulses, such as to engage in self-harm.[86] Individuals high in grit also focus on future goals, which may stop them from attempting suicide.[87] It is believed that because grit encourages individuals to create and sustain life goals, these goals provide meaning and purpose in life.[88] Grit alone does not seem to be sufficient, however. Only individuals with high gratitude and grit have decreased suicidal ideation over long periods of time.[89] Gratitude and grit work together to enhance meaning in life, offering protection against death and suicidal thoughts or plans.[90]

Building[edit]

The American Psychological Association suggests "10 Ways to Build Resilience", which are:

  1. to maintain good relationships with close family members, friends and others;
  2. to avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems;
  3. to accept circumstances that cannot be changed;
  4. to develop realistic goals and move towards them;
  5. to take decisive actions in adverse situations;
  6. to look for opportunities of self-discovery after a struggle with loss;
  7. to develop self-confidence;
  8. to keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context;
  9. to maintain a hopeful outlook, expecting good things and visualizing what is wished;
  10. to take care of one's mind and body, exercising regularly, paying attention to one's own needs and feelings.

A number of self-help approaches to resilience-building have been developed, drawing mainly on the theory and practice of cognitive-behavioural therapy.[91] For example, a group cognitive-behavioral intervention, called the Penn Resiliency Program (PRP), has been shown to foster various aspects of resilience. A meta-analysis of 17 PRP studies showed that the intervention significantly reduces depressive symptoms over time.[92] However, it is not clear if the Penn Resiliency Program has an enhanced effect among children who experience adversity (e.g., compared to peers who experience lower- or no-adversity). This would be a necessary criteria to support claims of promoting resilience, given definitions of resilience as doing well despite risk or adversity.

Furthermore, the idea of 'Resilience Building' is debate-ably at odds with such conceptualizations of resilience as a description of doing well despite experiencing adversity.[93] 'Resilience Building' is often used to imply that resilience is a characteristic that the person has, that this characteristic can be bestowed on to a person (See [94]). Those who view resilience as a description of doing well despite adversity instead view efforts at increasing promotive and protective factors in the lives of individuals as means of encouraging resilience.[95] In this way, increasing an individual's resources to cope with or otherwise address the negative aspects of risk or adversity is how to promote, or 'build,' resilience.[32]

Social programs[edit]

Head Start was shown to promote resilience.[96] So was the Big Brothers Big Sisters Programme, the Abecedarian Early Intervention Project,[97][98] and social programs for youth with emotional or behavioral difficulties.[99]

Tuesday's Children,[100] a family service organization that made a long-term commitment to the individuals that have lost loved ones to 9/11 and terrorism around the world, works to build psychological resilience through programs such as Mentoring and Project COMMON BOND, an 8-day peace-building and leadership initiative for teens, ages 15–20, from around the world who have been directly impacted by terrorism.[101]

Children[edit]

Resilience in children refers to individuals who are doing better than expected, given a history that includes risk or adverse experience. Simply put, resilience requires two conditions to be met: (1) the child must have experienced some sort of risk or adversity that has been linked with poor outcomes, and (2) the child is generally doing okay despite being exposed to that risk or adversity; they are not showing that poor outcome.[102]

The dominant view is that resilience is a description of a group of children. It is not a trait or something that some children 'just have.' There is no such thing as an 'invulnerable child' who can overcome any obstacle or adversity that she encounters in life. Resilience is not a rare and magical quality. In fact it is quite common.[94] Resilience is the product of a large number of developmental processes over time that has allowed children who experience some sort of risk to continue to develop competently (while other children have not).[103] Research on 'protective factors' has helped developmental scientists to understand what matters most for resilient children. Protective factors are characteristics of children or situations that particularly help children in the context of risk. There are many different protective factors that are important for resilient children. Two that have emerged time and again in studies of resilient children are good cognitive functioning (like cognitive self-regulation and IQ) and positive relationships (especially with competent adults, like parents).[104] Children who have protective factors in their lives tend to do better in some risky contexts when compared to children without protective factors in the same contexts. However, this is not a justification to expose any child to risk. Children do better when not exposed to high levels of risk or adversity.

A separate view is that certain children survive extremely high risk environments, such as a schizophrenic parent, through personal invulnerability—a stubborn resistance to being drawn into a maelstrom of mental illness due to a profound attachment to reality. Contemporary resilience researchers and thinkers appreciate this view as something in the history of thought on resilience in development, but recognize that it is oversimplified at best. The science of resilience in development has largely moved past the idea of 'invulnerable children.'

When it comes to children, there are still many scientific debates with respect to resilience. One debate involves differing opinions about what constitutes 'doing okay.' There is considerable agreement that child competence can be defined and measured in a way that can indicate whether or not the child is doing well. Called 'age-salient developmental tasks,' these are things that are generally expected of children of a certain age, in a certain culture, of a certain time or point in history.[105] Developmental tasks can span all areas or domains of a person's life. For example, in many cultures (but certainly not all) 14 month old children are expected to be able to show the beginnings of spoken language, early motor coordination that allows them to start walking, able to form an attachment relationship with a primary caregiver, etc. These tasks certainly change with age; generally children are expected to show increasingly sophisticated cognitive and social abilities as they grow older: 5-year-olds are expected to show a higher degree of independence and self-regulation skills (for example), compared to a 2-year-old. Resilient children can be thought of as those who show competence in age-salient developmental tasks even though they have experienced some risk or adversity that threatened that competence. Others have focused on different criteria for 'doing okay', such as the absence of mental health problems like depression or conduct problems. Still others have focused on happiness or the experience of positive emotions.

Building in the classroom[edit]

Resilient children as described by Garmezy[106] as working and playing well and holding high expectations, have often been characterized using constructs such as locus of control, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and autonomy. Benard[107] concluded that resilient children have high expectations, a meaning for life, goals, personal agency, and inter-personal problem-solving skills. All of these things work together to prevent the debilitating behaviors that are associated with learned helplessness. Chess[108] identified "adaptive distancing" as the psychological process whereby an individual can stand apart from distressed family members and friends in order to accomplish constructive goals and advance his or her psychological development. Moving away to college after high school is a way of practising adaptive distancing.[109] Classrooms in which students are given an opportunity to respond, an engaging cooperative learning environment, a participating role in setting goals, and a high expectation for student achievement. All of these characteristics help students develop a sense of belonging and involvement. These two characteristics help to reduce the feelings of alienation and disengagement. With that kind of connection in the school, students will have more of a protective shield against the adverse circumstances that life throws at them.

Role of the community[edit]

Communities play a huge role in fostering resilience. Benard[110] identifies three characteristics of those types of communities: 1. Availability of social organizations that provide an array of resources to residents 2. Consistent expression of social norms so that community members understand what constitutes desirable behaviour 3. Opportunities for children and youth to participate in the life of the community as valued members. The clearest sign of a cohesive and supportive community is the presence of social organizations that provide healthy human development.[111] Services are unlikely to be used unless there is good communication concerning them. Children who are repeatedly relocated tend to fall through the cracks here, as their opportunities for resilience-building, meaningful community participation are removed with every relocation.[112][113][114][115][116] Community-school relationships are very important to give extra resources to meet even basic psychological needs of students and families.

Role of the family[edit]

Fostering resilience in children requires family environments that are caring and stable, hold high expectations for children’s behavior and encourage participation in the life of the family.[117] Most resilient children have a strong relationship with at least one adult, not always a parent, and this relationship helps to diminish risk associated with family discord. Benard[110] found that even though divorce produces stress, the availability of social support from family and community can reduce stress and yield positive outcomes. Any family that emphasizes the value of assigned chores, caring for brothers or sisters, and the contribution of part-time work in supporting the family helps to foster resilience.[42]

Families in poverty[edit]

Numerous studies have shown that some practices that poor parents utilize help promote resilience within families. These include frequent displays of warmth, affection, emotional support; reasonable expectations for children combined with straightforward, not overly-harsh discipline; family routines and celebrations; and the maintenance of common values regarding money and leisure.[118] According to sociologist Christopher B. Doob, "Poor children growing up in resilient families have received significant support for doing well as they enter the social world—starting in daycare programs and then in schooling."[119]

Role of religion[edit]

The Main Street Missionary Baptist Church prepares to hold service out on Main Street in Biloxi, Miss. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to buildings all along the Mississippi gulf coast and caused the evacuation of New Orleans

When youths from problem neighbourhoods join a church their academic performance improves. The poorer a neighborhood is, the more church attendance helps kids academically. Improving academic performance seems to flow more from attending church than from merely believing. The church's social life influences youth from poor communities more than doctrine does. Church attendance also improves the physical, social, and emotional health of students.[120] According to Glen Elder: "What you have in the role of the religious community is a selected group of people who share values and are committed to the success of the child".[120] This pattern is likely to be the result of many protective processes that take place inside a religious institution. Ungar and colleagues[33] identified seven aspects of resilience across many different cultures. Each depends on the other. These seven aspects include:

1. Access to material resources Availability of financial, educational, medical and employment assistance and/or opportunities, as well as access to food, clothing and shelter
2. Access to supportive relationships Relationships with significant others, peers and adults within one’s family and community
3. Development of a desirable personal identity Desirable sense of one’s self as having a personal and collective sense of purpose, ability for self-appraisal of strengths and weaknesses, aspirations, beliefs and values, including spiritual and religious identification
4. Experiences of power and control Experiences of caring for one’s self and others, the ability to effect change in one’s social and physical environment in order to access health resources
5. Adherence to cultural traditions Adherence to, or knowledge of, one’s local and/or global cultural practices, values and beliefs
6. Experiences of social justice Experiences related to finding a meaningful role in one’s community that brings with it acceptance and social equality
7. Experiences of a sense of cohesion with others Balancing one’s personal interests with a sense of responsibility to the greater good; feeling a part of something larger than one’s self socially and spiritually

For example, attending a church has been shown to increase a child’s social network, provide a feeling of cohesion and belonging in her community, even promote a sense of personal control and sense of social justice when threatened. It is this complexity and multilevel nature of resilience that explains how people use the internal and external resources (assets) that are both available and accessible to overcome adversity.[121]

Emotion[edit]

Some studies confirmed the association between resilience and positive emotion.[122][123]

Examining the role positive emotion plays in resilience, Ong et al. (2006) found that widows with high levels of resilience experience more positive (e.g., peaceful) and negative (e.g., anxious) emotions than those with low levels. The former group shows high emotional complexity which is the capacity to maintain the differentiation of positive and negative emotional states while underlying stress. Ong et al. further suggested that the adaptive consequence of resilience is a function of an increase in emotional complexity while stress is present.[122]

Moreover, high resilient widows showed the likelihood of controlling their positive emotional experiences to recover and bounce back from daily stress. Indeed, positive emotions were found to disrupt the experience of stress and help high resilient individuals to recover efficiently from daily stress.[46] In this case, some studies argue[46][123] that positive emotion helps resilient people to construct psychological resources that are necessary for coping successfully with significant catastrophe, such as the September 11th attacks. As a result, positive emotion experienced by resilient people functions as a protective factor to moderate the magnitude of adversity to individuals and assists them to cope well in the future.[123]

In addition to the above findings, Fredrickson et al. further suggests that positive emotions are active elements within resilience.[46]

By examining people’s emotional responses to the September 11th, Fredrickson et al. (2003) suggests that positive emotions are critical elements in resilience and as a mediator that buffer people from depression after the crises. Moreover, high resilient people were more likely to notice positive meanings within the problems they faced (e.g., felt grateful to be alive), endured fewer depressive symptoms, and experienced more positive emotions than low resilient people after terrorism attacks.[46] Similar results were obtained in another study regarding the effects of 911 attacks on resilient individuals’ healthy adjustment.[59]

People with high levels of resilience are likely to show low levels of depression,[124] and less likely to smoke cigarettes or use marijuana.[59] Moreover, low resilient people exhibit the difficulties of regulating negative emotions and demonstrate sensitive reaction to daily stressful life events (e.g., the loss of loved one).[122] They are likely to believe that there is no end for the unpleasant experience of daily stressors and may have higher levels of stress. In general, resilient people are believed to possess positive emotions, and such emotions in turn influence their responses to adversity.

Bullying and emotional intelligence[edit]

Beyond preventing bullying, it is also important to consider how interventions based on EI are important in the case that bullying will occur. Increasing EI may be an important step in trying to foster resilience among victims. When a person faces stress and adversity, especially of a repetitive nature, their ability to adapt is an important factor in whether they have a more positive or negative outcome.[125] Resilient individuals are those who are considered to have positive developmental outcomes in light of their negative experiences, such as bullying.[126] Sapouna & Wolke (2013) examined adolescents who illustrated resilience to bullying and found some interesting gendered differences, with higher behavioral resilience found among girls and higher emotional resilience found among boys. Despite these differences, they still implicated internal resources and negative emotionality in either encouraging or being negatively associated with resilience to bullying respectively and urged for the targeting of psychosocial skills as a form of intervention.[126] Emotional Intelligence has been illustrated to promote resilience to stress[127] and as mentioned previously the ability to manage stress and other negative emotions can be preventative of a victim going on to perpetuate aggression.[128] One factor that is important in resilience is the regulation of one’s own emotions.[125] Schneider et al. (2013) found that emotional perception was significant in facilitating lower negative emotionality during stress and Emotional Understanding facilitated resilience and has a positive correlation with positive affect.[127]

Studies in specific populations[edit]

Psychological resilience has been studied in a number of groups.

Homeless children in families (United States)[edit]

In the United States, children who experience homelessness are a group that tend to encounter higher rates of adversity, including those literally related to residential instability (e.g., loss of home or social connections) [129] as well as other stressful life events like exposure to domestic violence or parental incarceration.[130] In addition, children in homeless families tend to be in single-parent, low-income households.[129] Because of the presence of these risks, homeless children usually are considered to be at the high end of a continuum of poverty-related risk.[131]

Despite these risks, many homeless children manifest resilience by continuing to show developmental competence. For example, multiple studies have found that many individual homeless children have reading and math achievement scores that were in the range expected for any student, even though average scores for homeless children as a group were much lower than other children in the same school district.[132][133]

Not surprisingly, the protective factors that help keep development on-track for homeless children are generally the same ones that matter for other at-risk groups of children: better cognitive functioning (such as IQ and executive function skills)[134][135] and positive relationships with at least one competent adult (especially parents).[136]

Research on resilience among children experiencing homelessness has increasingly taken a developmental-ecological perspective, with an emphasis on untangling the complex developmental processes that contribute to, or interfere with, positive adaptation. A demonstration of this involves the interplay between two protective factors: positive parenting and good cognitive functioning. Kindergarten-aged children staying in family emergency housing did better at school if they had more competent parents [136] or if their parents showed more positive parenting behaviors.[137] More interestingly, competent and positive parenting was related to better child cognitive functioning (executive functioning and IQ scores) which, in turn, explained why these children did better at school. Meanwhile, children who showed better academic achievement in first grade were more likely to continue to show good achievement across the school years.[138] Positive parenting seems to protect and encourage better cognitive functioning, which the child then ‘takes to school’ as a tool to help function competently in that context.

In children at high risk for psychological disorder[edit]

A study conducted on children examined factors showing healthy adjustment after children experienced stresses and conditions known to carry a risks of unfavorable outcomes.[139]

Factors that showed healthy adjustment were measured. First, the experimenters tested 109, 6 to 7 year old children with a multifactor screen that assessed psychological problems and stresses of family, motherly attitudes of herself and parenthood in general, and the mother's perception of the infants average mood. Also other variables such as stressful life events, social support available the mother and child, and the child’s locus of control were measured.[139]

Experimenters found that stresses related to birth or environmental stresses related to caregiving, place a child at greater risk for adjustment problems in later childhood. Also negative events throughout childhood also place a child at risk for adjustment problems. Stressful events magnify each other, while support of friends and family served as protective factors.[139]

The authors claimed the results show that many children had self-righting tendencies and overcame forces that tried to steer them toward deviation. This means even though children had stressful events in their lives, they were able to continue on effectively. Also additional information was found that showed multiple risk factors all contribute to add to psychological disorders. Usually if problems are suffered, it is behavioural and even sometimes somatic.[139]

Among transgender youth[edit]

Transgender youth experience a wide range of abuse and lack of understanding from the people in their environment and are better off with a high resilience to deal with their lives. A study was done looking at 55 transgender youths studying their sense of personal mastery, perceived social support, emotion-oriented coping and self-esteem. It was seen that around 50% of the variation in the resilience aspects accounted for the problematic issues of the teens. This means that transgender youths with lower resilience were more prone to mental health issues, including depression and trauma symptoms. Emotion-oriented coping was a strong aspect of resilience in determining how depressed the individuals were.[140]

Children of poor Vietnamese parents in the USA and Germany[edit]

Nathan Caplan studied the children of poor Vietnamese parents in the US. Most of these parents were refugees. In many cases they did not own anything but the clothes they were wearing when they arrived. Most did not speak English. Half of the parents had less than five years of formal schooling. The refugees studied by Caplan lived in the worst neighborhoods of big cities. Yet their children turned out to be academically more successful than American middle class children.

Caplan et al. found out the Vietnamese stress the value of education. Parents wanted their children to enjoy a better education than they did themselves. The Vietnamese children spend an average of 3 hours and 10 minutes per day doing their homework and reading for school, while American middle class students just spend an average of 1 hour and 30 minutes per day with these activities.

Nathan Caplan also found out the older siblings were supposed to help their younger siblings. That way the younger ones did not only learn facts but also attitudes towards school and learning from their older siblings. The more siblings a child of Vietnamese parentage has, the more likely is he or she to achieve in school.[141][142][143]

Germany is a multi-ethnic society. 8% of the population and 25% of 15-year-olds are born abroad, or have as least one parent born abroad. In Germany, Vietnamese families started arriving as foreign workers during the 1980s. As a rule, the children of immigrants are not as successful academically as the children of native Germans, but children of Asian parentage are the exception. The Vietnamese are the largest Asian group in Germany and also one of the poorest ethnic groups. It has been found that Vietnamese parents value education and that Vietnamese students spend more time learning than their German counterparts.[144][145][146]

Children of American farmers[edit]

Elder and Conger examined data from several Iowa counties to see how the farm crisis of the 1980s and 1990s affected children growing up in rural parts of the state. They found that a large number of those young people were on paths to successful development and life achievement. Most children of those children grew up to be academically successful and law-abiding.

Elder was able to identify five resource mechanisms:

  1. Strong intergenerational bonds, joint activity between parents and children
  2. Being socialized into productive roles in work and social leadership; stressing non-material goals
  3. A network of positive engagement in church, school, and community life
  4. Close ties with grandparents, support from grandparents
  5. Strong family connections with the community[147]

See also Iowa Youth and Families Project

Children during the great depression[edit]

Elder studied the life of men who were children during the Great Depression of 1929–1939 and came to maturity at the outset of World War II. When these children came of age Elder found them to be healthy, law abiding, well adapted and bright. Yet such vast generalizations necessarily ignore the fact that many members of the same historical cohort exhibited none of those traits (laws were still broken), despite growing up in the same broadly adverse times.

One stunning finding was that poverty had slight positive effects on children from the middle classes. Once they reached adulthood those men earned a college degree as often as men from nondeprived middle-class homes. In later life they did a little better in terms of economic success than their nondeprived middle-class peers.[148]

Men of working-class background did not do as well as men from middle-class homes. However, many of them were upwardly mobile and on most measures they did do just as well as men from never-deprived working-class backgrounds.

Depressive symptoms and resilience among pregnant adolescents[edit]

Pregnancies among adolescents are considered as a complication, as they favour education interruption, poor present and future health, higher rates of poverty, problems for present and future children, among other negative outcomes.[149]

Investigators from the Ecuadorian Catholic University (Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil) (Guayaquil) and the Spanish University of Zaragoza (Zaragoza), performed a comparative study at the Enrique C. Sotomayor Obstetric and Gynecology Hospital (Guayaquil) assessing resilience differences between pregnant adolescents and adults.[150]

A 56.6% of gravids presented total CESD-10 scores 10 or more indicating depressed mood. Despite this, total CESD-10 scores and depressed mood rate did not differ among studied groups. Adolescents did however display lower resilience reflected by lower total resilience scores and a higher rate of scores below the calculated median (P < 0.05). Logistic regression analysis could not establish any risk factor for depressed mood among studied subjects; however, having an adolescent partner and a preterm delivery related to a higher risk for lower resilience.

Menopause[edit]

Resilience was studied in Ecuadorian women aged 40–59 years. A 51.1% were postmenopausal, 43.8% lived high altitude, 43.5% were abdominally obese, 12.6% used hormone therapy and 80.8% had a partner. Multiple linear regression analysis determined that less resilience correlated with high altitude residency, more severe hot flushes, sedentarism, higher abdominal circumferences and having a partner with erectile dysfunction. Contrary to this, higher resilience scores correlated with higher parity and sexual activity.[151]

Resilience, depressed mood and menopausal symptoms have been studied in postmenopausal Spanish women aged 48 to 68 years. Among these women, 55.6% had increased body mass index, 76.9% had a partner, 17.8% were current smokers, 14.2% had hypertension, 25.4% used psychotropic drugs, and 13.0% used hormone therapy. Forty-five percent of the women had depressed mood (CESD-10 scores ≥10), and 34.9% had severe menopausal symptoms. Less resilience correlated with depressed mood and severe menopausal symptoms (higher total, psychological, and urogenital scores). Multiple linear regression analysis determined that high resilience scores positively correlated with exercising regularly and inversely correlated with depressed mood.[152]

Divorce[edit]

Often times divorce is viewed as detrimental to one’s emotional health, but studies have shown that cultivating resilience may be beneficial to all parties involved. The level of resilience a child will experience after their parents have split is dependent on both internal and external variables. Some of these variables include their psychological and physical state and the level of support they receive from their schools, friends, and family friends.[153] The ability to deal with these situations also stems from the child’s age, gender, and temperament. Children will experience divorce differently and thus their ability to cope with divorce will differ too. About 20-25% of children will “demonstrate severe emotional and behavioral problems” when going through a divorce.[154] This percentage is notably higher than the 10% of children exhibiting similar problems in married families .[155] Despite having divorces parents of about 75-80% of these children will “develop into well-adjusted adults with no lasting psychological or behavioral problems.” This comes to show that most children have the tools necessary to allow them to exhibit the resilience needed to overcome their parents’ divorce.

The effects of the divorce extend past the separation of both parents. The remaining conflict between parents, financial problems, and the re-partnering or remarriage of parents can cause lasting stress.[156] Studies conducted by Booth and Amato (2001) have shown that there is no correlation between post-divorce conflict and the child’s ability to adjust to their life circumstance.[157] On the other hand Hetherington (1999) completed research on this same topic and did find adverse affects in children.[158] In regards to the financial standing of a family, divorce does have the potential to reduce the children’s style of living. Child support is often given to help cover basic needs such as schooling. If the parents’ finances are already scarce then their children may not be able to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports and music lessons, which can be detrimental to their social lives.

Re-partnering or re-marrying can bring in additional levels of conflict and anger into their home environment. One of the reasons that re-partnering causes addition stress is because of the lack of clarity in roles and relationships; the child may not know how to react and behave with this new “parent” figure in their life. In most cases, bringing in a new partner/spouse will be the most stressful when done shortly after the divorce. In the past, divorce had been viewed as a “single event”, but now research shows that divorce encompasses multiple changes and challenges.[159] It is not only internal factors that allow for resiliency, but the external factors in the environment are critical for responding to the situation and adapting. Certain programs such as the 14-week Children’s Support Group and the Children of Divorce Intervention Program may help a child cope with the changes that occur from a divorce.[160]

Natural Disasters[edit]

Resiliency is especially important in the face of a natural disaster such as a hurricane or a tsunami. The ability for one to come back from a devastating event is crucial to their ability to thrive. Resilience after a natural disaster can be gauged in a number of different ways. It can be gauged on an individual level, a community level, and on a physical level. The first level, the individual level, can be defined as each independent person in the community. The second level, the community level, can be defined as all those inhabiting the locality affected. Lastly, the physical level can be defined as the infrastructure of the locality affected. Researchers a Duke University looked at resiliency on the individual level.[161] The aftermath of the 2004 earthquake in Indonesia was used in their study.[162] They hypothesized that the more education an individual had, the more resilient they would be1. What they found was that this was true for males, but not females1. Education was linked to levels of resiliency and survival in males, but in females education had little to no effect on whether they survived and were able to rebound after the earthquake.[163] UNESCAP funded research on how communities show resiliency in the wake of natural disasters.[164] They found that, physically, communities were more resilient if they banded together and made resiliency an effort of the whole community.[165] Social support is key in resilient behavior, and especially the ability to pool resources.[166] In pooling social, natural, and economic resources, they found that communities were more resilient and able to over come disasters much faster than communities with an individualistic mindset.[167] The World Economic Forum met to discuss resiliency after natural disasters in 2014, and contributed a theory of their own3. They believe that countries that are more economically sound, and have more individuals with the ability to diversify their livelihoods, will show higher levels of resiliency.[168] This has not been studied in depth yet, but the ideas brought about through this forum appear to be fairly consistent with already existing research.[169] Resiliency after a natural disaster is a topic that is relevant for people across all time and cultures. Natural disasters are hard to predict, so the ability to prepare for them is rather limited. However, communities can develop plans and discuss actions that can be taken in the face of a disaster. Resiliency is a quality that ultimately comes down to the individual, but an individual is more likely to be able to show resilient qualities if they have support, socially and economically. Having a strong sense of community is key in resiliency, so it is crucial for this to be developed and cultivated within each community.

Spaniards in Germany[edit]

In the 1970s, Spain was a dictatorship under the rule of Francisco Franco. Many Spaniards fled to Germany in search of a better life. Most of those immigrants were poor and only few were able to speak proper German. Today their children do as well as German children when it comes to educational success and Spaniard adults do as well as German adults when it comes to occupational success.[170][171]

See also[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Benard, B. (2004) Resiliency: What we have learned San Francisco, WestEd. '
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). Ecology of human development. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Gonzales, Laurence. (2012) Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. NYC: W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Masten, A. S. (2007). "Resilience in developing systems: Progress and promise as the fourth wave rises". Development and Psychopathology 19 (3): 921–930. doi:10.1017/S0954579407000442. PMID 17705908. 
  • Masten, A. S. (1999). Resilience comes of age: Reflections on the past and outlook for the next generation of research. In M. D. Glantz & J. L. Johnson (Eds.), Resilience and development: Positive life adaptations (pp. 281–296). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Press.
  • Reivich, Karen, and Shatte, Andrew (2002) The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life's Hurdles. Broadway.
  • Rutter, M. (2000). Resilience reconsidered: Conceptual considerations, empirical findings, and policy implications. In J. P. Shonkoff & S. J. Meisels (Eds.), Handbook of early childhood intervention (2nd ed., pp. 651–682). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rutter, M. (1987). "Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms". American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 57 (3): 316–331. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.1987.tb03541.x. PMID 3303954. 
  • Siebert, Al (2005) The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive under Pressure, and Bounce Back from Setbacks Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
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