AFFECTION Builds Resilience


Butterfly lovePsychological resilience is an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or simply not showing negative effects. A third, more controversial form of resilience is sometimes referred to as ‘post-traumatic growth‘ or ‘steeling effects‘ where in the experience adversity leads to better functioning (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease).

Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual.

dadRecently 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. A child, for example, may do poorly during critical life transitions (like entering junior high) but experience problems that are less severe than would be expected given the many risks the child faces.

There is also controversy about the indicators of good psychological and social development when resilience is studied across different cultures and contexts.

The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Resilience and Strength in Black Children and Adolescents, 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.

People who cope may also show “hidden resilience” 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).

indigenous familyIn 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“.

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.

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.

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 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.

Role of the community

Communities play a huge role in fostering resilience.

Benard 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 behavior.
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.

Services are unlikely to be used unless there is good communication concerning them.

Community-school relationships are very important to give extra resources to meet even basic psychological needs of students and families.

Role of the family
Fostering resilience in children requires family environments that are ‘caring, loving and structured‘, hold high expectations for children’s behavior, and encourage participation in the life of the family. 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 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.

Families in poverty
Numerous studies have shown that some practices that poor parents utilize help promote resilience within families. These include frequent displays of LOVE through 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.

“Quality time with a child takes your presence not your presents.”

Christopher B. Doob,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”.


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