Many children are raised in less than ideal environments. They may be presented with a host of different problems, such as insufficient family resources, inadequate housing, violence-plagued neighborhoods, family dysfunction, poor educational opportunities, and physical and emotional health problems. But, not all of these children are destined to fail. In fact, large numbers of children succeed, some beyond anyone’s expectation. These children demonstrate a healthy development in spite of adversity. They have a quality known as resilience. Despite the myriad of roadblocks that they face, these children manage to bounce back and move forward. Resilience appears to be dependent upon an individual’s own personal resources as well as resources available from connectedness to family and community.
In a cross-sectional study published in 2015 in the journal BMC Pediatrics, researchers based in Hong Kong evaluated the association between physical activity and the mental-health well-being of Chinese teens and the role that resilience and other factors may play in this relationship. Why is this so important? The researchers explained that at least 16 percent of adolescents in Hong Kong in grades 7 to 9 have psychiatric disorders and an additional 22 percent have related symptoms. Among these disorders, oppositional defiant disorder and anxiety disorder were the most common. Learning ways to prevent some of this illness is of prime importance. The cohort consisted of 775 Chinese students in grades 7 and 8. All the students completed questionnaires. The researchers learned that physical activity was significantly correlated with the adolescent’s mental well-being and resilience. Apparently, resilience mediated most of this association. The researchers concluded that “promoting physical activities that build up resilience could be a promising way to improve adolescent mental health.” 1
In a study published in 2015 in Child Abuse & Neglect, researchers from New Zealand and Canada wanted to evaluate the ability of Positive Youth Development practices to improve the resilience of at-risk youth. The key elements of Positive Youth Development programs are the encouragement of personal agency, the respectful approach to youth and families, the focus on the strengths and competencies of children and teens, and the recognition of the risks and challenges that these children and teens may face. The cohort consisted of 605 New Zealand teens between the ages of 12 and 17 years who were clients of two or more services systems (child welfare, juvenile justice, educational support, and/or mental health) during the previous six months. The teens completed self-reported questionnaires that were administered individually. The researchers found that the service systems that used a positive youth development approach had significantly higher levels of teen resilience. Moreover, increased resilience in the teens was related to increased indicators of well-being. The researchers concluded that professional practices that provide spaces for youth engagement and decision making and that work in respectful ways taking account of youth circumstances, bring benefits in terms of enhanced resilience. 2
In an article published in 2013 in the Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, researchers from Israel and New Haven, Connecticut, commented that Jewish and Arab Israeli students were traumatized by the rocket attacks during the 2006 Lebanon War. Could a teacher intervention help them? The cohort consisted of 1,372 children from both ethnic groups who were in fourth and fifth grade. All of the students were exposed to the rocket attacks. During the 14-session intervention program, the topics included processing positive and negative experiences, managing stress, dealing with emotions, correcting negative cognitions, and implementing adaptive coping mechanisms such as humor. Both before and after the program, the children were assessed for stressful life events, symptoms, and parental concerns. Before the program, the Arab children showed more severe symptoms. By the end of the program, all of the children had significant decreases in symptoms. The researchers concluded that “school-based programs with teachers as clinical mediators could be a valuable, cost-effective cross-cultural model of intervention after mass trauma.” 3
In a study published in 2014 in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, researchers based in New York City noted that the response of people to trauma may range from resilience to severe psychopathology, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive disorders, and substance use disorders. That is why it is important to identify those core psychosocial elements that appear to support resilience. One of the key elements of resilience is optimism; while the situation may initially appear bleak, a resilient person believes that the outcome will ultimately be favorable. Another important element is cognitive flexibility or the ability to reappraise and reframe one’s situation. Resilient people have active coping skills and maintain a social support network. They keep as physically active as they can, and they hold a set of core beliefs that are positive about themselves. The researchers noted that “these factors can be cultivated even before exposure to traumatic events, or they can be conceptualized and targeted in interventions for individuals recovering from trauma exposure.” 4
In a 12-month study published in 2013 in the journal Quality of Life Research, researchers from Korea wanted to learn more about the association between depression and/or anxiety and levels of resilience. The cohort consisted of 121 outpatients diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety disorders. Eighty of the patients had depressive disorders and 41 had anxiety disorders. The researchers learned that a low level of spirituality was the key independent predictor of low resilience in people with depressive and/or anxiety disorders. In addition, low purpose in life and less frequent exercise were associated with low and medium resilience, respectively. The researchers commented that their findings added to “the understanding of resilience and provided potential targets of resilience-focused intervention in these patients.” 6
1. Frederick Ka Wing Ho, Lobo Hung Tak Louie, Chun Bong Chow et al., “Physical Activity Improves Mental Health Through Resilience in Hong Kong Chinese Adolescents,” BMC Pediatrics 15 (2015): 48+.
2. Jackie Sanders, R. Munford, T. Thimasarn-Anwar et al., “The Role of Positive Youth Development in Building Resilience and Enhancing Wellbeing for At-Risk Youth,” Child Abuse & Neglect 42 (2015): 40-53.
3. Leo Wolmer, Daniel Hamiel, Michelle Slone et al., “Post-Traumatic Reaction of Israeli Jewish and Arab Children Exposed to Rocket Attacks Before and After Teacher-Delivered Intervention,” Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences 50, no. 3 (2013): 165-72.
4. Brian M. Iacoviello and Dennis S. Charney, “Psychosocial Facets of Resilience: Implications for Preventing Posttrauma Psychopathology, Treating Trauma Survivors, and Enhancing Community Resilience,” European Journal of Psychotraumatology 5 (2014): 23970.
5. Jae-Won Choi, Boseok Cha, Jihoon Jang et al., “Resilience and Impulsivity in Euthymic Patients with Bipolar Disorder,” Journal of Affective Disorders 170 (2015): 172-77.
6. Jung-Ah Min, Young-Eun Jung, Dai-Jin Kim et al., “Characteristics Associated with Low Resilience in Patients with Depression and/or Anxiety Disorders,” Quality of Life Research 22, no. 2 (2013): 231-41.
7. Tracy J. Cohn and Sarah L. Hastings, “Resilience Among Rural Lesbian Youth,” Journal of Lesbian Studies 14, no. 1 (2010): 71-79.
Carr, Walter, Devvon Bradley, Alan D. Ogle et al. “Resilience Training in a Population of Deployed Personnel.” Military Psychology 25, no. 2 (2013): 148-55.
Choi, Jae-Won, Boseok Cha, Jihoon Jang et al. “Resilience and Impulsivity in Euthymic Patients with Bipolar Disorder.” Journal of Affective Disorders 170 (2015): 172-77.
Cohn, Tracy J., and Sarah L. Hastings. “Resilience Among Rural Lesbian Youth.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 14, no. 1 (2010): 71-79.
Diab, Marwan, Kirsi Peltonen, Samir R. Qouta et al. “Effectiveness of Psychosocial Intervention Enhancing Resilience Among War-Affected Children and the Moderating Role of Family Factors.” Child Abuse & Neglect 40 (2015): 24-35.
Ho, Frederick Ka Wing, Lobo Hung Tak Louie, Chun Bong Chow et al. “Physical Activity Improves Mental Health Through Resilience in Hong Kong Chinese Adolescents.” BMC Pediatrics 15 (2015): 48+.
Iacoviello, Brian M., and Dennis S. Charney. “Psychosocial Facets of Resilience: Implications for Preventing Posttrauma Psychopathology, Treating Trauma Survivors, and Enhancing Community Resilience.” European Journal of Psychotraumatology 5 (2014): 23970.
Min, Jung-Ah, Young-Eun Jung, Dai-Jin Kim et al. “Characteristics Associated with Low Resilience in Patients with Depression and/or Anxiety Disorders.” Quality of Life Research 22, no. 2 (2013): 231-41.
Okvat, Heather A., and Alex J. Zautra. “Community Gardening: A Parsimonious Path to Individual, Community, and Environmental Resilience.” American Journal of Community Psychology 47 (2011): 374-87.
Sanders, J. R. Munford, T. Thimasarn-Anwar et al. “The Role of Positive Youth Development in Building Resilience and Enhancing Wellbeing for At-Risk Youth.” Child Abuse & Neglect 42 (2015): 40-53.
Wolmer, Leo, Daniel Hamiel, Michelle Slone et al. “Post-Traumatic Reaction of Israeli Jewish and Arab Children Exposed to Rocket Attacks Before and After Teacher-Delivered Intervention.” Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences 50, no. 3 (2013): 165-72.
Zhao, J., P. Chi, X. Li et al. “Extracurricular Interest as a Resilience Building Block for Children Affected by Parental HIV/AIDS.” AIDS Care 26, no. 6 (2014): 758-62.
American Psychological Association. www.apa.org .