Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities

By Suniya S. Luthar | Go to book overview

17
Perceived Discrimination and Resilience

Laura A. Szalacha, Sumru Erkut, Cynthia Garía Coll,
Jacqueline P. Fields, Odette Alarcón, and Ineke Ceder

On the first day of school, second grader Eduardo's Anglo classmates call
him a “dirty Spic” on the playground and won't let him play basketball with
them. At a middle school, in a mixed-race classroom, Juanita's teacher,
Mr. Smith, yells at her when she does not turn her homework in on time.
He tells her she is lazy and irresponsible.

Are Eduardo and Juanita likely to perceive these interactions as acts of racial or ethnic discrimination? Is this a common occurrence for these children? Will their feelings of having been discriminated against serve as a risk factor for poor self-esteem or depression? How do racism and discrimination fit in the overall complex development of resilience?

The past three decades have seen the study of resilience in development progress from its early conceptions of invulnerable children (Anthony & Cohler, 1987; Pines, 1975) to our present understandings of mediated and moderated paths toward resilience. We have begun to move from the identification of important individual characteristics of the invincibles (Werner & Smith, 1992) to a more systemic approach involving families, schools, and communities; from the identification of risk or protective factors to the understanding of the mechanisms that underlie these factors. Our conception of resilience as a multidimensional construct presently requires that empirical attention be paid not only to adaptational failures

The Puerto Rican Research Program on Children and Youth is funded by Grant R01-
HD30592 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and
by Grants MCJ-250643 and R40 MC 00161 from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau
(Title V, Social Security Act), Health Resources and Services Administration, Department
of Health and Human Services.

-414-

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