The American Psychological Association describes resiliency in the following way: “Resilience is an interactive product of beliefs, attitudes, approaches, behaviors, and, perhaps, physiology, that help children and adolescents fare better during adversity and recover more quickly following it. Resilient children bend rather than break during stressful conditions, and they return to their previous level of psychological and social functioning following misfortune. Being resilient does not mean that one does not experience difficulty or distress or that life’s major hardships are not difficult or upsetting. Rather, it means that these events, although difficult and upsetting, are ultimately surmountable.” (APA Fact Sheet, Fostering Resilience in Response to Terrorism: For Psychologists Working with Children)
Let’s recap the four components of resiliency: BELIEFS, ATTITUDES, APPROACHES, and coping BEHAVIORS. You’ll notice there isn’t a word about what type of trauma or negative event was endured. There’s nothing about having to shield children from difficult circumstances or protecting them from every injury or unpleasant experience. Resiliency is about a healthy state of psychology; one that allows children to bounce back and maintain a love for life even in spite of the harshest struggles.
Resiliency has also been described as a phenomenon whereby individuals show positive adaptation in spite of significant challenges in life. (Luthar, Cicchetti & Becker, 2000) It’s the process of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences and achieving a positive outcome. (O’Leary, 1998; O’Leary & Ickovics, 1995; Ruther, 1987) A study by Garmezy & Rutter (1983) found two primary factors associated with resiliency: A) Support from others, and B) A child’s ability to understand and cope with the situation (i.e., proper coping perspectives and life outlook). This is the broad theme throughout most of the research on resiliency. In the next heading, we’ll discuss more specifically some of the things that build resiliency in children.