Resilience: Health and Literature Review Page

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Resilience Theory: A Literature Review
with special chapters on deployment resilience in military families & resilience theory in social work

by Adrian DuPlessis VanBreda October 2001


Author: Title: Date: Report No: Institution:

Adrian DuPlessis VanBreda Resilience Theory: A Literature Review October 2001 MPI/R/104/12/1/4, dd October 2001 South African Military Health Service, Military Psychological Institute, Social Work Research & Development

City: E-mail: Address:

Pretoria, South Africa Major A.D. Van Breda Military Psychological Institute Private Bag X02 Gezina 0031 South Africa

Resilience Theory: A Literature Review

Page i


Resilience is the capacity to maintain competent functioning in the face of major life stressors. (Kaplan, Turner, Norman, & Stillson, 1996, p. 158) George Vaillant (1993) defines resilience as the “self-righting tendencies” of the person, “both the capacity to be bent without breaking and the capacity, once bent, to spring back” (p. 248). (Goldstein, 1997, p. 30) Resilience means the skills, abilities, knowledge, and insight that accumulate over time as people struggle to surmount adversity and meet challenges. It is an ongoing and developing fund of energy and skill that can be used in current struggles. (Garmezy, 1994 in Saleebey, 1996, p. 298) [Resilience is] the capacity for successful adaptation, positive functioning or competence … despite high-risk status, chronic stress, or following prolonged or severe trauma. (Egeland, Carlson, & Sroufe, 1993, in Sonn & Fisher, 1998, p. 458) Resilience is primarily defined in terms of the “presence of protective factors (personal, social, familial, and institutional safety nets)” which enable individuals to resist life stress (Kaplan et al., 1996, p. 158). An important component of resilience, however, is the hazardous, adverse and threatening life circumstances that result in individual vulnerability (ibid.). An individual’s resilience at any moment is calculated by the ratio between the presence of protective factors and the presence of hazardous circumstances. Polk (1997) has synthesised four patterns of resilience from the individual resilience literature: Dispositional Pattern. The dispositional pattern relates to physical and ego-related psychosocial attributes that promote resilience. These entail those aspects of an individual that promote a resilient disposition towards life stressors, and can include a sense of autonomy or self-reliance, a sense of basic self-worth, good physical health and good physical appearance. Relational Pattern. The relational pattern concerns an individual’s roles in society and his/her relationships with others. These roles and relationships can range from close and intimate relationships to those with the broader societal system.

Resilience Theory: A Literature Review

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Situational Pattern.

The situational pattern addresses those aspects involving a This can include an

linking between an individual and a stressful situation. and the capacity to take action in response to a situation.

individual’s problem solving ability, the ability to evaluate situations and responses,

Philosophical Pattern. The philosophical pattern refers to an individual’s worldview or life paradigm. This can include various beliefs that promote resilience, such as the belief that positive meaning can be found in all experiences, the belief that selfdevelopment is important, the belief that life is purposeful. Barnard (1994, pp. 139-140) identified nine individual phenomena that the literature repeatedly has shown to correlate with resiliency: “Being perceived as more cuddly and affectionate in infancy and beyond. “Having no sibling born within 20-24 months of one’s own birth. “A higher level of intelligence. “Capacity and skills for developing intimate...
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