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Summary Capita selecta
Te gebruiken bij
Auteur(s): V. Morrison, P. Bennett, S. Baumgardner, M. Crothers, D.A. Holmes, W. Linden, P. Hewitt
Druk/Jaar van uitgave: 2012
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Chapter 4 - Resilience
Defining Resilience from a Developmental Viewpoint
From a developmental perspective, resilience refers to the sustainment, recovery, or enhancement of mental or physical health after being exposed to a challenging or threatening situation. Resilience from a developmental perspective cannot be defined completely objectively, but requires a judgment. First, the judgment has to be made that one was subject to a powerful threat that could potentially produce negative outcomes, such as growing up in poverty or in an abusive home. Second, the judgment has to be made that positive outcomes emerged, for example by comparing the outcome to a norm. Resilience is also sometimes referred to as an absence of problematic behaviors or psychopathologic results following catastrophic situations. Resilience to adverse situations seems to be natural throughout life, such as in difficult situations like divorce, illness, or losing a loved person. Masten coined the phenomenon that resilience seems to be common throughout one´s lifetime as “ordinary magic”. Resilience is based on many interacting factors. A flexible self-concept, that can be adjusted to changes, is influential, as well as having a feeling of autonomy and self-direction. Other influences on one´s resilience include situational mastery and one´s social resources, including close, high-quality relationships. The developmental approach to resilience is mostly focused on children and their long-term adjustment to unfavorable circumstances.
Defining Resilience from a Clinical Viewpoint
A clinical perspective on resilience is less focused on long-term influences, but more on short-term responses to particular events such as losses or trauma. Resilience from a clinical perspective refers to adults being able to still psychologically and physically function on a rather constant and healthy level after being subjected to a single potentially disturbing situation, such as losing a loved person or being exposed to severe violence. Two patterns of reaction to loss and trauma have been recognized: Resilience being a short-term reaction of returning to a normal level after a disturbance in few weeks on the one hand, and recovery being a long-term response of slowly returning to one´s former state of mental health on the other hand. Resilience depends on the emotional stability and the coping resources of an individual. If one actually has to rely on recovery instead of resilience, one´s coping resources have been overwhelmed and the individual has been strongly vulnerable to the disturbance. Clinical psychologists often underestimate the influence of resilience, possibly because these more resilient individuals do not feel the need to visit a psychologist over their problems, because they feel like they can cope with it themselves. It seems that resilient responses to even severely disturbing life events are more common than thought, and are not maladaptive, contrary to the quite popular belief that individuals who do not suffer prolonged periods of distress and grief following a loss are not “normal” and possibly even pathological. Instead, they just seem to be more resilient.
Research into the domain of resilience was sparked by the discovery that many children that suffer from unfavorable situations still develop in a normal and healthy manner. This was first noted for children that had a background of being exposed to influences such as war, deficiency, and violence. Despite the expectancy of becoming troubled adults, many of these children turned out to become fully functional, healthy adults. Being resilient to negative life changes was also found in old individuals that suffer from illnesses, losses, and physical and mental declines, but still maintain a high level of subjective well-being. It seems that resilience is not reserved for extremely tough and emotionally strong individuals, even though there also are some individuals that suffer heavily from adverse life events, and need a long time as well as much support in order to recover.
Blaming the Victim
Even though some protective components against the impact of a disturbing event lie within an individual, such as abilities, personality, and coping skills, other factors determining the impact of the event are external. One thing seems to be especially damaging for people who suffer comparably strong emotional reactions: Blaming the victim. This refers to other people assuming that the individual´s high level of distress is partially his/her own fault, and for example telling them to “get over it”. Accusing a victim to be partly liable for their distress adds a further source of distress, thus quite probably impeding the victim´s recovery. Blaming someone for not having sufficient protective factors to deal with the impact of a situation is counterproductive and unfair.
Protective Factors Involved in Children´s Resilience
Some protective factors come from within individuals, while other protective factors stem from an individual´s environment. The trait explanation attributes resilience to traits such as ego-resilience, hardiness, willpower, self-enhancement, and optimism. But solely attributing resilience to these factors allows for blaming to victim as being “weak”. These factors are mostly involved in coping effectively, but seem to be not the only influence on the impact of adverse events. External factors also play a role, as was shown by research focusing on protective factors against adverse life events in children. Three domains of protective factors for children have been found:
Protective factors within children, such as:
Being easy-going and being able to adapt to change
Humor, optimism and a positive self-image
Being able to control one´s emotions and desires
Protective factors within families, such as:
Close, warm and caring relationships with family-members
Structured home setting with little conflict
Parents concerned about the child´s education and with decent financial capacities
Protective factors within communities, such as:
Living in a safe community with attentive and involved people
Easily accessible emergency, health and social services
Visiting a good school, being socially involved in the community
It seems that the amount of one´s protective resources mediates the amount of adversity one can withstand. Internal factors are involved in this, but they only explain part of why some people are more resilient to adversity than others.
Resilience in Children from an Impoverished Environment
It seems that children from a poor environment also tend to have fewer external protective resources not only in the family, but also in the community. Children from an impoverished home are more likely to be exposed to negative behavior such as violence, drug use, and other criminal behavior. They are also at a higher risk to grow up in a community with a lack of health services and social services and tend to go to a bad school. Still, many poor children don´t commit felonies themselves and manage to grow up as well adjusted people. This likelihood of good outcomes in the face of adverse situations is even higher for children that grow up in a poor, but caring and stable family. It furthermore seems that children from an impoverished environment that are not resilient to adversity have suffered a significantly higher number of negative life events and have a high level of chronic stress, while resilient children from an impoverished environment that also face serious threats and stress do so at a lower frequency and with lower severity. Resilient children in a poor environment also tend to be more intelligent and have a better self-image than non-resilient children. It was also found that resilient youths tend to have way higher self-regulation skills, such as being able to control one´s thoughts, attention, emotions, and behavior. Self-regulation is also associated with the ability to use more adaptive coping strategies. Cognitive and emotional self-regulation skills seem to be especially important when growing up in a poor environment. Cognitive self-regulation skills are for example related to thoughtfully making plans and carrying them out step by step. Emotional self-regulation skills are for example related to not expressing one´s negative emotions too strongly, such as inhibiting oneself from destroying things out of anger or insulting other people, thus being a skill that is very important in maintaining positive relationships with other people.
Resilience in Adulthood
Almost all protective factors involved in the resilience of children are also influential for adult´s resilience. Six further dimensions have been identified that also influence the resilience of an adult are: (1) Self-acceptance (having positive beliefs about oneself); (2) personal growth (a perception of continuous development); (3) purpose in life (having a sense of direction in one´s life due to one´s goals and beliefs); (4) environmental mastery (feeling competent to manage one´s environment); (5) autonomy; and (6) positive relations with others.
These protective factors are also important for successful aging. Old age is associated with a higher risk of adversity, such as losing loved ones or suffering from illnesses. Still, many old people preserve their levels of subjective well-being. Socioemotional selectivity theory suggests that as people grow older and start to perceive their time as limited, they change the focus of their goals and attention from being future-oriented to being more oriented towards the present. People tend to change from pursuing knowledge-related social goals to the pursuit of emotion-related social goals when they grow old. Instead of focusing on future gains, people focus on emotional satisfaction and try to engage only in the things that are important to them, such as their relationships with family members. This decreasing emphasis on the future seems to help the elderly to better regulate their emotions when dealing with losses or conflicts. Older people also tend to adjust their social networks to being smaller, but of higher quality.
Negative Effects of Trauma
Traumatic events, such as the loss of a loved one, catastrophic fires, or surviving a possibly deadly illness, can have life-changing effects for an individual. These situations induce strong emotional reactions such as shock, anxiety, fear, and depression. Experiencing a traumatic situation can demolish one´s basic assumptions. Three basic beliefs tend to be challenged by trauma: The belief that one is invulnerable and certain events are not going to happen to oneself; the belief that the world is a fair, meaningful and comprehendible place; and the view of oneself in a positive light (e.g. view of one having control, power, and autonomy).
Positive Effects of Trauma
Traumatic events can also have positive effects on an individual. The term posttraumatic growth refers to positive outcomes emerging from traumatic experiences. These positive outcomes result from an enhanced understanding of oneself, one´s relationships and of life due to the challenged beliefs and assumptions. These changed beliefs can result in closer ties to one´s family, an increased perception of one´s personal strength and confidence, a greater appreciation of life, and generally adjusting one´s priorities in life. Traumatic events challenge the perception of one´s life being meaningful. In order to create growth out of a traumatic event, people have to engage in meaning-making in order to regain some sense of meaning in their life. Creating a sense of meaning depends on two processes:
Sense-making: The process of trying to understand the traumatic event in the framework of one´s understanding of how the world operates, such as interpreting the death of a young person in the sense of death being inevitable or in the sense of the death being part of “God´s plan”.
Benefit-finding: The process of discovering benefits or positive outcomes in traumatic events. Losing a loved one may for example result in one realizing the fragility of life and thus engaging more in one´s close relationships. People often change their behavior in positive ways after a traumatic event due to not taking things for granted any more.
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