Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities

By Suniya S. Luthar | Go to book overview

9
Correlational and Experimental Study of Resilience in
Children of Divorce and Parentally Bereaved Children

Irwin Sandler, Sharlene Wolchik, Caroline Davis,
Rachel Haine, and Tim Ayers

This chapter presents research on resilience of children and adolescents who have experienced two major disruptions of the nuclear family, parental divorce and parental bereavement. The two research programs share a common research paradigm in which there is an iterative relationship between correlational and experimental studies (Sandler, Wolchik, MacKinnon, Ayers, & Roosa, 1997). Correlational studies are used to identify protective and vulnerability factors, particularly those that may be modifiable by planned interventions. Experimental studies are designed on the basis of the small theory that changing these factors in the desirable direction will promote resilience. Randomized experimental trials of the interventions are conducted to test whether the intervention has changed these vulnerability and protective factors and reduced negative outcomes and whether change in negative outcomes is mediated by change in the vulnerability and protective factors (Sandler et al., 1997). The mediational analysis within the randomized trial provides a stronger test of the causal role of the vulnerability and protective factors to influence negative outcomes than is provided by the correlational studies, and thus contributes to theory about resilience (Rutter, Pickles, Murray, & Eaves, 2001).

The chapter first presents a theoretical framework that specifies alternative models of the influence of vulnerability and protective factors on the resilience of children experiencing significant adversities. We then discuss correlational research on key constructs in the theoretical

Support for this research was provided by National Institute of Mental Health Grants P30
MH439246, R01 MH49155, and R01 MH57013, which are gratefully acknowledged.

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