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

CFCA Paper No. 2 – April 2012


Over recent years there has been a shift in research and service delivery from a deficits-based approach, which focuses on factors related to psychopathology and maladaptive functioning, to an approach that highlights strengths and resources that may enable adaptive functioning and positive outcomes. This focus on strengths-based approaches has led to a rise in research on resilience.

Resilience has gained popularity in service delivery and policy, particularly in the wake of the many natural disasters Australia has witnessed over recent years (e.g., The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, Council of Australian Governments [COAG], 2011). Despite this popularity, there has been growing concern among the research and practice communities about the broadening meaning and use of the construct of resilience (e.g., Vanderbilt-Adriance & Shaw, 2008). The term has been used so often and in so many contexts as to lead some to ask if it still has value. This paper discusses some of the definitional and conceptual issues in childhood resilience research, with a focus on the usefulness of the concept for practitioners. It also highlights some of the progress made in the research as the concept has broadened and moved towards a more ecological framework that takes into consideration the complete context of the child. Finally, the paper discusses how resilience is being used in practice.