Implications of resilience concepts for scientific understanding

Resilience is an interactive concept that refers to a relative resistance to environmental risk experiences, or the overcoming of stress or adversity. As such, it differs from both social competence positive mental health. Resilience differs from traditional concepts of risk and protection in its focus on individual variations in response to comparable experiences. Accordingly, the research focus needs to be on those individual differences and the causal processes that they reflect, rather than on resilience as a general quality. Because resilience in relation to childhood adversities may stem from positive adult experiences, a life-span trajectory approach is needed. Also, because of the crucial importance of gene-environment interactions in relation to resilience, a wide range of research strategies spanning psychosocial and biological methods is needed. Five main implications stem from the research to date: (1) resistance to hazards may derive from controlled exposure to risk (rather than its avoidance); (2) resistance may derive from traits or circumstances that are without major effects in the absence of the relevant environmental hazards; (3) resistance may derive from physiological or psychological coping processes rather than external risk or protective factors; (4) delayed recovery may derive from “turning point” experiences in adult life; and (5) resilience may be constrained by biological programming or damaging effects of stress/adversity on neural structures.

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