Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Psychological resilience development in children

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Psychological resilience development in children:
How can psychological resilience be developed in children?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Psychological resilience is an important, and almost crucial, quality to have when facing adversity throughout your life. Psychological resilience allows us to persevere through challenge, threats, trauma, and allows us to succeed during stressful situations. Regardless of how psychological resilience was formed within the individual's life, it will help lead them onto greater successes. Research has shown that children who have developed resilience at an early age tend to be more manageable, goal orientated, and focused children in the school. Despite their common initial isolation[explain?] during the earlier years of social development, they tend to come out as the more successful leader with greater and more meaningful relationships.

When defining psychological resilience, it is most simply put as the ability to quickly recover from difficult situations, as well as effectively cope or adjust during adversity.

Common themes[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Psychological resilience in children is developed over time and is influenced by their socioeconomic group, their families financial circumstance, the stability of their family environment, and other influential factors.

Characteristics of children with high psychological resilience[edit | edit source]

  • Adaptive
  • Optimistic
  • Higher and deeper thoughts and processes than their peers
  • Mental elasticity
  • Ability to successfully deceive and manipulate

How is psychological resilience developed?[edit | edit source]

  • Females have been shown to have stronger resilience over males
  • Minority group members such as the LGBTQI, ethnic communities, refugees, and recently immigrated families, are faced with situations that are more likely to require resilience.
  • Children from Aboriginal communities[explain?]
  • Low socioeconomic status such as burdened families, single-parented homes, and poorly educated communities.

Psychological resilience criteria[edit | edit source]

In order to successfully meet the criteria for psychological resilience, an individual must meet six of the eight domains of functioning: employment, homelessness, education, social activity, psychiatric disorder, substance abuse, and official arrest or self reported violence. Windom and McGolin, of Cambridge University, found that 22% of those who met the criteria for psychological resilience, experienced abuse and neglect throughout their life, with the majority being female[Provide more detail].

Psychological resilience as a positive emotion, and negative emotions, can co-exist at the same time.[Provide more detail]

Schools and the role of psychological resilience building[edit | edit source]

Psychological resilience is an imperative tool which allows adolescents and youths to form strong and meaningful connections, as well as understand when and how to react to appropriately in different circumstances. Recent research has enabled schools to play a major part in the development of psychological resilience in youth. Schools are able to increase the access that youths have to caring and professional adults, allowing them to form strong meaningful relationships. Schools have the ability to shape an individuals social competence through counselling, support, and promoting a positive outlook to situations (DEC, 2015). In addition, schools are able to create partnerships with parents, as well as the local community, by promoting co-teaching of the children.

Children who are exposed to psychological resilience training and support from both school and parents, are more lively to build a strong resilient personality (Brooks, 2006). An essential part of this kind of program, is that teachers maintain strong communication with the parents, in an environment where the child is able to see this. This is especially important in children who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, children with behavioral issues, or academic issues. Given that socially disadvantaged children are more likely to experience a form of neglect, schools are able to address positive resilience building more accurately and quickly. By providing appropriate support to these children, they are able to build strong relationships with caring and trusting adults. These disadvantaged children are then more likely to participate in positive activities and demonstrate good behavior, than disadvantaged children who were left without care.

Case study A

Jake lives at home with his three sisters and mother, their father is out of the picture, and being the oldest, Jake has always assumed the role of the dominant male figure in his home. Recently, Jake's mother has lost her job, and has had trouble finding an adequate position which will feed the family. Jake is only 15 but feels as though he should drop out of school to join the workforce to help provide. He finds it difficult to make friends as no one seems to understand his troubles, and his school grades have dropped dramatically given his recent worries.

In this example, Jake could greatly benefit from an intervention from his teachers. We know that Jake has recently experienced stressors outside of his school environment, and with proper coaching and support from his teachers, Jake might feel as though he is being heard and understood. In addition to providing him in-school support, the teachers could also contact the mother, as she may not be aware of Jakes recent dropping grades, plans to drop out, and inability to connect with this peers. By creating a supportive environment, Jake will build resilience which will allow him to improve his grades, and connect better with his peers.

Higher resilience in children is noted among children in lower socioeconomic status due to the lower opportunity and higher chances of neglect. This forces children to create negative relationships, which will continue this negative pattern of poor behavior and abuse, throughout the rest of their life. Furthermore, children that have been abused (mentally and/or physically)/ neglected/ or given less opportunity are more likely to develop strong psychological resilience than those children that grow up in a strong and loving community and family.

Quiz[edit | edit source]

Quiz - choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

Children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to develop strong resilience.


Parenting for psychological resilience building[edit | edit source]

Parents are the first models for a child, and they are often responsible for the way the child develops their personality and behaviours. It is often up to the parent to expose their child to different stimuli, however, in some cases children are exposed to stressful and unpredictable circumstances, where they are forced to build emotional strength at an early age. In situations where children are exposed to unfavorable circumstances such as domestic violence, divorce, or neglect, children exhibited the ability to cope, better than previously sheltered adults (Rowenton, 1997).

In a study, involving 219 children between the ages of 6 and 12 years, who were exposed to violence in the family, children were monitored, and their ability to adjust and cope was measured. Results showed that these children showed psychological resilience at the time of the obstacle (the violence), however, findings were inconclusive about whether or not these same children would show the same resilience in different situations (Graham-Bermann, Gruber, Howell, & Girz, 2009). Furthermore, their results showed that levels of psychological resilience varied between children who were exposed to different severity of violence within the household. More resilient children had a supportive parent or community support, had mothers with greater coping mechanisms, and did not have more than one violent parent. These children were less likely to commit crime, and showed that they were less fearful and worried than their peers who did not have the same supports. Children who were exposed to high and frequent violence showed less resilience, and more negative depressive symptoms.

Parents and marriage play an important role in role in a child's well-being and emotional stability. Considering the physical and mental challenges of divorce, it is surprising to learn that children of divorced families are only slightly more traumatised than children of a traditional marriage. Numerous studies have shown that children of divorced families are more likely to bounce back from the event, than let it drain on them and negatively impact on their cognitive functioning (Haggerty, 1996). Although there are other factors to consider, such as drop of contact with one parent, potential moves, and being exposed to the parents hurt and struggles, children have shown to be resilient when faced with these challenges.

Criminal behavior[edit | edit source]

Higher psychological resilience means children are able to endure more, and are able to cope through a wider range of situations. Children who have been exposed to unlawful and criminal behaviors are more likely to be accustomed to the situation, and therefore more likely to repeat it. So does this mean that more resilient children are more likely to partake in a life of crime? Studies of community influences have found that impoverished areas with less communal activities, lower socioeconomic status, and higher unemployment rates, exhibit a higher crime rate that surrounding neighborhoods (Sampson, Morenoff, & Gannon-Rowley, 2002; Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997). Children that grow up in these areas have to learn to respond to constant stress, intimidation, threats to safety and well-being, as well as loss. In an environment like this, children will become resilient to these common occurrences, as they respond to the stressful environment and adversity (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000). Further research showed that parents of children in violent neighborhoods tend to promote healthier coping strategies, and resilience in their children, than parents of children that are exposed to frequent lesser stressors such as heavy workload or small family dramas (Garbarino, Dubrow, Kostelny, & Pardo, 1992).

Despite official suburban crime rates decreasing, studies suggest that adolescent and youth violence still remain very high (Stein, Jaycox, Kataoka, Rhodes, & Vestal, 2003). A review of literature provided little correlation between resilience and criminal behavior[factual?]. Although children and youths that group up in environments which lead to high psychological resilience, there is little to directly link criminal behavior and resilience. Research states that these exposed children are more likely to enter into a life of crime due to their environmental circumstances, rather than because they are resilient (Jackson, Bron, & Jacob, 1997). So for example, if a child that grew up in a rough neighborhood, moved to a more peaceful and safe one, they are unlikely to engage in criminal behavior simply due to their own resilience.

Case study B

Sally grew up in a neighborhood where she was harassed on the way to school. She was not allowed to walk to or from school alone, and was never allowed out of the house without adult supervision, and certainly not after dark. When Sally went to sleep, she would often hear shouting, screaming, or gunshots in the middle of the night. Sally learnt to keep her head down as she walked through the shops, and to not respond to calling out, or physical provocation. At school, Sally sees the older boys and girls passing white bags and needles to one another. She often hears her mother crying to her father about how they can afford to pay the bills that week.

Based on the case study above, if Sally was to remain in the same neighborhood for her adult life, do you think she would engage in a form of criminal behavior? .


Practicality and application of resilience[edit | edit source]

Psychological resilience is a useful tool in both child and adult worlds. It allows us to form social interactions, strengthens our cognition, and helps with problem solving. Resilience is often more noticeable in children when they engage in social situations, and when they are given problem solving tasks. Children with greater resilience tend to be more cautious and be better behaved than their peers, performing at a higher level of cognition than those around them.

Happy couples often find that they are able to meet each others needs in terms of psychological resilience. They are able to support, care, and understand the others stressors, as well as be able to cope effectively in times of hardship or pressure.

Psychological resilience in relationships[edit | edit source]

Psychological resilience is often built through the quality of relationships people have growing up, including the relationship with parents, siblings, their peers at school, as well as their teachers. We know that positive relationships create better resilience, and a positive state of mental health (Fitzgerald. et al. 2017), but it is also important to look at the quality of relationships built with people of different resilience levels. Research has shown that the importance of resilience within a partner differs greatly between males to females. Meaning that males are less likely to be effected by their female partners resilience, however females will find themselves unhappy in their relationship if the male shows less resilience then themselves[factual?][grammar?]. Successfully resilient relationships have the ability to become long-standing and more fulfilling relationships, as they are able to persevere through obstacles and challenges (Sanford et al., 2016).

Psychological resilience in the workforce[edit | edit source]

Psychological resilience in the workforce can be a key tool to a successful career, it encourages the individual to strive in situation of pressure and face challenges more assertively- this is referred to as career-resilience[grammar?]. Career resilience focuses on staying healthy and focused throughout career challenges, through continuous learning and development (Betsey, 1996). Career resilience plays an important part of work-life in all careers and positions, and effects individuals differently. Workplaces can present a highly stressful setting, and having a low resilience can contribute to a successful career (Arora & Rangnekar, 2015).

Resilience when building a family[edit | edit source]

We know that parental influence on psychological resilience has a major impact on child development, but do resilient children build better families? Resilient children have shown to become more caring and kind adults, this is observed in both low socioeconomic demographics, as well as the greater community[factual?]. In research conducted by Garbarino, Dubrow, Kostelny, and Pardo [when?], evidence showed that children who have grown up in rough neighborhoods have proven to promote resilience and stronger coping mechanisms, than parents that have grown up in safer areas. Furthermore, these parents encourage their children to develop themselves safely, with greater support. Other research, focusing on the higher socioeconomic demographic, suggests that resilient children as adults develop into more kind, supportive, and caring adults[factual?]. This same research shows that there is a strong relationship between these adults, and their children that report feeling safe, secure, cared and supported by their parents. This collection of evidence would suggest that parents that were resilient children are more inclined to have a strong and supportive family environment, however it is difficult to measure if resilient children build better families than those that were not resilient children.

Although this research is favorable to parents that were resilient children, it is difficult to determine whether these children turn into more caring and supportive adults due to their resilience as children, or simply because they are able to better sympathise with their children, and therefore provide better care, support and compassion.

Psychologically resilient children as adults[edit | edit source]

Psychological resilience and coping is build up through experiences, environmental factors, and exposure to different stimuli. Children who have proven themselves to be resilient during their adolescent and youth years, do not necessarily exhibit the same resilience as they grow into adults. Although research on this is limited, several longitudinal studies have been able to successfully study children as adults, with a 40 year spectrum[factual?].

In a study by Sigal and Weinfeld [when?], Jewish adults were selected to participate in a study which involved correlating data from directly exposed (at the time) Jewish children, and same aged adults that were not closely affected by the [which?] war. The study involved Jewish participants that were between 2 to 18 years at the time of the war, and their non-effected peers. Their results showed that although the Jewish sample showed higher occurrences of mental and physical health issues, their ability to cope and show psychological resilience, had no significant difference to the other subjects. To measure their resilience as children during the war, parents of the participants were asked to fill out a questioner  to determine how resilient the children were. Unsurprisingly, the results of this study showed a much bigger difference in children that were directly exposed to the war, than those that were distantly effected[explain?].

"Risk, resilience, & recovery", a longitudinal study by Emmy Werner, followed 698 children born in 1955. The phrase "risk, resilience, & recovery" refers to what Werner calls the process of psychological resilience. This is because her studies have found that resilience is taught and strengthened as a result of exposure to risk and danger, but once that danger is removed, there is no longer the need for resilience, and recovery can take place. In her studies, Werner observed that children exposed to risk, neglect, and danger became resilient youths, and in tern[spelling?] proved to be more caring and nurturing adults. Once the risk factor was removed, the resilience that was once needed as a protective mechanism ceased to be of use, and was replaced with recovery and healing. The once resilient child begins to recover and heal from their past.

Resilient children often, but do not necessarily turn into resilient adults (Condly, 2016).[Provide more detail]

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Psychological resilience is a necessary and vital emotional tool to help protect, overcome, and thrive, in adverse situations. It can develop at times of need, and leave once the situation has been overcome. As children, our resilience is developed through not only our environment, but the way our parents raise us. Children exposed to dangerous and adverse environments are more likely to develop resilience, than children who aren't as exposed. Schools have a responsibility to encourage safe and supported resilience building in children that they see are struggling, or have an unfavorable family environment. Providing support and care to children will allow them to form better decisions and feel supported doing so. Schools that provide support for their children are able to contribute to stronger and more socially desirable adults. Unlike supported children, those children that are left alone with no support can develop bad behaviors, that can turn into criminal behavior. Furthermore, resilience in children contributes to the way they continue in their workplace, relationships, and family building. It is important that resilience building is supported, when there is need for it, as it will contribute to the way the child develops. We know that resilience is an important facet in a childs life, but it is also important to understand that once the adverse situation is no longer present, resilience can fade away, as it is no longer needed.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Aisenberg, E., & Herrenkohl, T. (2008). Community violence in context: Risk and resilience in children and families. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23, 296-315.
  • Association, A. (2016). What is Resilience?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2017, from
  • Arora, R., & Rangnekar, S. (2015). Relationships Between Emotional Stability, Psychosocial Mentoring Support and Career Resilience. Europe’S Journal Of Psychology11, 16-33.
  • Brooks, J. (2006). Strengthening resilience in children and youths: maximizing opportunities through the schools. Children & Schools28, 69-76.
  • Condly S. (2016). Resilience in children. A review of literature with implications for education, 41(3),211-236.
  • FitzGerald, C. A., Fullerton, L., Green, D., Hall, M., & Peñaloza, L. J. (2017). THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH ADULTS AND SUICIDE-ATTEMPT RESILIENCE IN AMERICAN INDIAN YOUTH IN NEW MEXICO. American Indian & Alaska Native Mental Health Research: The Journal Of The National Center24(2), 40-53.
  • Garbarino, J., Dubrow, N., Kostelny, K., & Pardo, C. (1992). Children in danger. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Garmezy, N. (1993). Children in poverty: Resilience despite risk. Psychiatry56(1), 127-136.
  • Goldstein, S., & Brooks, R. B. (2005). Resilience in children. New York: Springer.
  • Graham-Bermann, S., Gruber, G., Howell, K., & Girz, L. (2009). Factors discriminating among profiles of resilience and psychopathology in children exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV). Child Abuse & Neglect33, 648-660.
  • Haggerty, R. J., Garmezy, N., Sherrod, L. R., & Rutter, M. (1994). Stress, risk, and resilience in children and adolescents: Processes, mechanisms, and interventions (pp. 64-99). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Jackson, S., Born, M., & Jacob, M. (1997). Reflections on risk and resilience in adolescence.Journal of Adolescence, 20, 609-616.
  • Luthar, S., Cicchetti, D., & Becker, B. (2000). The construct of resilience: A critical evaluation and guidelines for future work. Child Development, 71, 543-562
  • Rees, C., Breen, L., Cusack, L., & Hegney, D. (2015). Understanding individual resilience in the workplace: the international collaboration of workforce resilience model. Frontiers In Psychology6.
  • Rutter, M. (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. American Journal Of Orthopsychiatry57, 316-331.
  • Roweton, W. E. (1997), Children in danger: Coping with the consequences of community violence. Psychol. Schs., 34: 377–378.<377::AID-PITS13>3.0.CO;2-E
  • Sanford, K., Backer-Fulghum, L. M., & Carson, C. (2016). Couple Resilience Inventory: Two dimensions of naturally occurring relationship behavior during stressful life events. Psychological Assessment28, 1243-1254.
  • Sampson, R. J., Morenoff, J. D., & Gannon-Rowley, T. (2002). Assessing “neighborhood effects”: Social processes and new directions in research. Annual Review of Sociology, 28, 443-478.
  • Sigal, J. J., & Weinfeld, M. (2001). Do children cope better than adults with potentially traumatic stress? A 40-year follow-up of holocaust survivors. Psychiatry, 64, 69-80. doi:10.1521/psyc.
  • Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L., Kataoka, S. H., Rhodes, H., & Vestal, K. D. (2003). Prevalence of child and adolescent exposure to community violence. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 6, 247-264.
  • Werner, E. (1993). Risk, resilience, and recovery: Perspectives from the Kauai Longitudinal Study. Development And Psychopathology5, 503.
  • Werner, E. E. (1994). Overcoming the odds. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics15, 131-136.
  • Werner, E., & Brendtro, L. (2012). Risk, Resilience, and Recovery. Reclaiming Children & Youth21, 18-22.

External links[edit | edit source]