Confident boy sitting in a tree

Resilience

In recent years resilience has become the focus for a great deal of exploration and research.

Most people can identify individuals, children or adults, who seem to have managed very difficult situations or events that might have been expected to overwhelm their coping capacities. This phenomenon is reflected in a number of child care settings where some young people with appallingly difficult backgrounds manage to thrive and succeed against the odds. Resilience is not a fixed trait of an individual and can only be demonstrated in conditions of adversity. Three different phenomena have been described in discussing resilience in children.

Newman and Blackburn state that resilient children are better equipped to resist stress and adversity, cope with change and uncertainty, and to recover faster and more completely from traumatic events or episodes.

It is crucial to recognise that a child or young person’s capacity to cope successfully with adversity is dependent not only on their personal qualities but also the level and type of challenge they face and what type of environmental support exists for them at that time. Moreover children vary in their responses to different challenges and an individual may display resilience in one situation but be overwhelmed by challenges that others are able to manage well. Similarly a child may demonstrate considerable resilience at one point in their developmental trajectory and very little at a different time. Within these constraints, however, a number of factors have been identified that seem likely to affect the resilience of children when exposed to extreme adversity.

Resilience creating attributes in children, which will include those they are born with and those they acquire, include emotional competence, a sense of competence and self-efficacy, problem solving skills and the capacity to identify positives even in adverse experiences.

The talk on the previous step focussing on caring for children in a risk-averse context is particularly relevant here as the development of attributes such as problem solving skills and a sense of competence are reliant to a certain extent upon the opportunity to engage in activities which will allow them to develop. Being confronted with appropriate and manageable risks which require to be managed and overcome will be a significant part of this process and it is important that we care for vulnerable children in a manner that allows these opportunities to be presented.

Protective factors in family or community which can promote resilience in children include at least one good parent-child relationship, affection and warmth, a wide support network, a positive school environment and opportunities for sport and leisure. Again, when caring for vulnerable children it is important that we are aware of how we can support and sustain these conditions.

The sources listed in the ‘see also’ section below were used when creating this week’s materials - you can consult them for more information on the topic.

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Vulnerable Children

University of Strathclyde