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

CFCA Paper No. 2 – April 2012


Researchers have understood "risk" and "protective" factors in varied ways and definitions of what constitutes competent functioning and positive outcomes have also differed across situations and studies. Resilience researchers have also been criticised for producing long lists of risk and protective factors that are of limited practical use because a given intervention cannot address all known risk and protective factors (Luthar, 2006).

Issues such as these have led some to question whether resilience is still a useful concept, particularly for practitioners working with children who face long-term chronic adversity. It has been suggested recently that rather than focusing on what makes a person resilient, it may be more helpful to focus on what particular processes tend to cultivate resilience for particular people (Harney, 2007).

An understanding of the processes involved and the complexity of the concept, as well as a continued focus on the unique context of each individual child, will ensure that the concept of resilience can still be useful in practice.