Is resilience still a useful concept when working with children and young people?

Is resilience still a useful concept when working with children and young people?

11 April 2012

CFCA Paper No. 2 reviews some of the complexities and issues surrounding the concept of resilience in order to ascertain its usefulness for practitioners working with children.

The paper offers a brief history of the research as well as an investigation of how resilience is defined, measured and used in practice.

The key messages of this paper are:

  • Although there are many varied definitions of resilience, most suggest that it involves children displaying competent functioning despite exposure to high levels of risk or adversity.
  • Resilience is not static and may be impacted by changing risk and protective factors at different ages and developmental stages.
  • Resilience may be "domain specific", with a child showing competent functioning in one area of their life (e.g., academic achievement) but deficits in another (e.g., emotional functioning).
  • It is important to consider the context, and the strengths and challenges of each individual child in a holistic manner.
  • No child is invulnerable. The greater the number and chronicity of risks a child is exposed to, the less likely they are to display resilience.
  • An understanding of the 3 main components of resilience - risk factors, protective factors and competent functioning - is important when working with resilience in practice.
  • Practitioners should understand how these components are defined and measured and how they themselves are defining and measuring them in their own practice.
  • Practices and interventions aimed at increasing resilience in children generally focus on one of three outcomes: building the capacity to be resilient in all children (universal programs); the capacity to be resilient in vulnerable children or those facing chronic adversity; or the capacity to be resilient in children exposed to one-off traumatic events or disasters.


To read the full paper go to: Is resilience still a useful concept when working with children and young people?


Of course, resilience is important, children need to know how to cope with both the posiive and negative aspects of their lives. Knowing how to be a good winner or a good looser, finding the positive aspects of negative experiences and be able to work out ways to overcome hurdles and not give up. I believe resilience and a good attitude is a big part of good mental health for everyone not just children. Glors (ECT)
Thanks for your comment, Glors. We definitely agree! Stay tuned for CFCA Paper No. 3, Community resilience and natural disasters: A framework for support.
Ken Knight
I had to dig deep into my bag of resilience after the death of my wife and 2 daughters Alannah and Madeline at Port Arthur in 1996. Thanks for your information and there are many areas that ring true for me. Strength based practice is about fostering the strongest possible sense of acceptance and belonging within ones community. I think this gives best prognosis for recovery.
Walter Mikac
Thanks Walter, we're so pleased that you read our paper and found it useful. We remember the loss of your family and you are the embodiment of resilience for so many Australians. May we all keep the conversations about resilience flowing.
Elly Robinson

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