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?

Cathryn Hunter

CFCA Paper No. 2 — April 2012
Is resilience still a useful concept when working with children and young people?

This paper 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.

Key messages

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.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Cathryn Hunter is a Research Officer with the Child Family Community Australia information exchange at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The author would like to thank Jennie Hannan, Linda Mondy, Rhys Price-Robertson, Elly Robinson and Shaun Lohoar for their helpful comments and feedback.

Publication details

CFCA Paper
No. 2
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, April 2012.
11 pp.
ISSN: 
2200-4106
ISBN: 
978-1-921414-86-2

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