Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities

By Suniya S. Luthar | Go to book overview

20
Genetic Influences on Risk and Protection
Implications for Understanding Resilience

Michael Rutter


CONCEPT OF RESILIENCE

Resilience has been conceptualized in several somewhat different ways (see Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000; Masten, 2001; Rutter, 1999, 2000a) but, in essence, the starting point is a recognition that for all kinds of adverse experiences there is immense variation in how people respond. Some individuals appear to succumb to the most minor stresses, whereas others seem to cope successfully with the most terrible experiences. The latter phenomenon is what is generally viewed as resilience.

Particularly in recent years, there has been a growing acceptance of the need to take seriously the various methodological hazards that could create false impressions of resilience. The phenomenon is of little interest, and has no policy or practice implications, if the variation reflects no more than the fact that the adverse sequelae had not been covered by the measures used in a particular study, or that the supposed vulnerability factors did not truly mediate risk, or that the heterogeneity in outcome merely reflected variations in the severity of the stress experienced, or that the impression of resilience reflected only an artifact stemming from scaling considerations. In that connection, it has proved crucial to specify the environmental sequelae precisely. Thus, Jaffee et al. (in press) found that children suffered from fathers' involvement if the father was antisocial but benefited if he was not.

The reality of such conceptual and methodological problems should not, however, be construed as implying that resilience should be abandoned as a scientific construct; rather, these problems underscore the need for concerted attention to the specific processes or mechanisms

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