Factors that promote childhood resiliency: Insights from a qualitative study

Year: 1997

Author: Johnson, Bruce, Howard, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Resiliency can be defined as the capacity to successfully adapt in the face of adversity, and to develop social competence despite exposure to severe stressors. The research reported in this paper used focus group interviews with educators, parents and children to explore issues of resiliency and disruptiveness at school. Participants were asked to reflect on their own experiences with children whom they categorised as either 'vulnerable and disruptive', or 'vulnerable but resilient'. By constantly questioning why particular children were disruptive or resilient, a range of salient influences were identified for both 'resilient' or 'disruptive' children. The research confirms the influence of 'protective factors or assets' in children's lives that serve to protect them by either reducing the impact of risks or by changing the way in which children respond to the risks. The research reinforces Winfield's (1994) reflection that 'We need to change our approach from one that emphasises risks, deficits, and psychopathology to one that capitalises on protection, strengths and assets ... To design effective interventions, we must understand how some students persist and succeed in school and in later life despite the overwhelming odds against them'. Suggestions about the school's role in helping children move beyond risk to resiliency are presented.