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

CFCA Paper No. 2 – April 2012

Is resilience still a useful concept for practitioners?

As can be seen in the practical examples above, resilience theory is still being used as the basis for programs, and research on the topic continues.

Despite some methodological and definitional concerns, resilience is still a useful concept in that it moves beyond simply identifying risk factors that may lead to negative outcomes, to including protective factors that may help lessen some of the negative influences of adversity. An awareness of the specific risk and protective factors at work in a child's life allows practitioners to target their practice to reduce the risks and boost relevant protective factors in order to offer the child the best chance of experiencing positive outcomes.

For practitioners to ensure effective practice application, the notion of resilience requires an in-depth understanding that:

  • resilience involves complex processes of interrelated risk and protective factors at the child, family and community levels;
  • resilience is not static and may fluctuate at different ages and developmental stages of the child;
  • when utilising the concept, practitioners should be clear on how they are defining risk, protective factors and adaptive functioning; and
  • the individual situation and needs of each child, and an understanding that no child is invulnerable, should be key considerations. The greater the number or chronicity of risks the child is exposed to, the less likely the child is to display resilient functioning (Vanderbilt-Adriance & Shaw, 2008).