Resilience concepts and findings: implications for family therapy
Resilience is a term used to describe relative resistance to psychosocial risk experiences. There is abundant evidence that there is enormous variation in children's responses to such experiences but research to determine the processes underlying the variations needs to take account of several crucial methodological issues. The findings emphasize that multiple risk and protective factors are involved; that children vary in their vulnerability to psychosocial stress and adversity as a result of both genetic and environmental influences; that family-wide experiences tend to impinge on individual children in quite different ways; that the reduction of negative, and increase of positive, chain reactions influences the extent to which the effects of adversity persist over time; that new experiences which open up opportunities can provide beneficial ‘turning- point’ effects; that although positive experiences in themselves do not exert much of a protective effect, they can be helpful if they serve to neutralize some risk factors; and that the cognitive and affective processing of experiences is likely to influence whether or not resilience develops. The implications of these findings for family therapy are considered in terms of the need for therapists to look carefully at the ways in which different risk factors interact; to assess and take account of individual differences in susceptibility; to consider the extent to which risk factors impinge on the individual and, in that connection, to note the importance of patterns of social interaction outside as well as inside the family; to appreciate the role of both the peer group and individual characteristics in the development of negative and positive chain reactions; and to pay attention to the ways in which individuals process their experiences.