Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 61
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: June 2012

6 - Resilience to Childhood Adversity: Results of a 21-Year Study



There has been a large amount of research on the contributions of childhood and familial factors to the development of psychopathology in children and young people (for reviews see, e.g., Farrington et al., 1990; Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992; Loeber, 1990; Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989; Rutter & Giller, 1983). This research has established that young people reared in disadvantaged, dysfunctional, or impaired home environments have increased risks of a wide range of adverse outcomes that span mental health problems, criminality, substance abuse, suicidal behaviors, and educational underachievement. Although popular and policy concerns have often focused on the role of specific factors such as child abuse, poverty, single parenthood, family violence, parental divorce, and the like, the weight of the evidence suggests that the effects of specific risk factors in isolation on later outcomes often tend to be modest (Fergusson, Horwood, & Lynskey, 1994; Garmezy, 1987; Rutter, 1979; Sameroff, Seifer, Barocas, Zax, & Greenspan, 1987). What distinguishes the high-risk child from other children is not so much exposure to a specific risk factor but rather a life history characterized by multiple familial disadvantages that span social and economic disadvantages; impaired parenting; a neglectful and abusive home environment; marital conflict; family instability; family violence; and high exposure to adverse family life events (Blanz, Schmidt, & Esser, 1991; Fergusson et al., 1994; Masten, Morison, Pellegrini, & Tellegen, 1990; Sameroff & Seifer, 1990; Shaw & Emery, 1988; Shaw, Vondra, Hommerding, Keenan, & Dunn, 1994).

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association
Armsden, G. C., & Greenberg, M. T. (1987). The inventory of parent and peer attachment: Individual differences and their relationship to psychological well-being in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 16, 427–454
Benard, B. (1990). The case for peers. In The corner on research. Portland, OR: Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development
Benard, B. (1992). Peer programs: A major strategy for fostering resiliency in kids. The Peer Facilitator Quarterly, 9(3)
Blanz, B., Schmidt, M. H., & Esser, G. (1991). Familial adversities and child psychiatric disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 32, 939-950
Bradley, R. H., Whiteside, L., Mundfrom, D. J., Casey, P. H., Keller, K. J., & Pope, S. K. (1994). Early indicators of resilience and their relation to experiences in the home environments of low birthweight, premature children living in poverty. Child Development, 65, 346–360
Carlin, J. B., Wolfe, R., Coffey, C., & Patton, G. C. (1999). Tutorial in biostatistics. Analysis of binary outcomes in longitudinal studies using weighted estimating equations and discrete-time survival methods: Prevalence and incidence of smoking in an adolescent cohort. Statistics in Medicine, 18, 2655-2679
Cloninger, C. R. (1987). A systematic method for clinical description and classification of personality variants. A proposal. Archives of General Psychiatry, 44, 573–588
Conners, C. K. (1969). A teacher rating scale for use in drug studies with children. American Journal of Psychiatry, 126, 884–888
Conners, C. K. (1970). Symptom patterns in hyperkinetic, neurotic and normal children. Child Development, 41, 667–682
Coopersmith, S. (1981). SEI – Self esteem inventories. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press
Davis, C., Martin, G., Kosky, R., & O'Hanlon, A. (2000). Early intervention in the mental health of young people: A literature review. Canberra: Australian Early Intervention Network for Mental Health in Young People
Davis, N. J. (1999). Resiliency: Status of the research and research-based programs – working paper draft. Washington, DC: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services
Elley, W. B., & Irving, J. C. (1976). Revised socio-economic index for New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 11, 25–36
Elliott, D. S., & Huizinga, D. (1989). Improving self-reported measures of delinquency. In M. W. Klein (Ed.), Cross-national research in self-reported crime and delinquency (pp. 155–186). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic
Emery, R. E., & O'Leary, K. D. (1982). Children's perceptions of marital discord and behavior problems of boys and girls. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 10, 11–24
Eysenck, H. M., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1964). Manual of the Eysenck personality inventory. London: London University Press
Farrington, D. P., Loeber, R., Elliott, D., Hawkins, J. D., Kandel, D. B., Klein, M. W., McCord, J., Rowe, D. C., & Tremblay, R. E. (1990). Advancing knowledge about the onset of delinquency and crime. In B. B. Lahey & A. E. Kazdin (Eds.), Advances in clinical child psychology (Vol. 13, pp. 383–442). New York: Plenum Press
Fergusson, D. M., & Horwood, L. J. (1996). The role of adolescent peer affiliations in the continuity between childhood behavioral adjustment and juvenile offending. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 24, 205–221
Fergusson, D. M., & Horwood, L. J. (2001). The Christchurch Health and Development Study: Review of findings on child and adolescent mental health. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 35(3), 287–296
Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lynskey, M. T. (1994). The childhoods of multiple problem adolescents: A 15-year longitudinal study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 35, 1123–1140
Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lynskey, M. T. (1995). The prevalence and risk factors associated with abusive or hazardous alcohol consumption in 16-year-olds. Addiction, 90, 935–946
Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., Shannon, F. T., & Lawton, J. M. (1989). The Christchurch Child Development Study: A review of epidemiological findings. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 3, 278–301
Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Woodward, L. J. (2001). Unemployment and psychosocial adjustment in young adults: Causation or selection?Social Science and Medicine, 53, 305–320
Fergusson, D. M., & Lynskey, M. T. (1996). Adolescent resiliency to family adversity. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 37, 281–292
Fergusson, D. M., & Lynskey, M. T. (1997). Physical punishment/maltreatment during childhood and adjustment in young adulthood. Child Abuse and Neglect, 21, 617–630
Fergusson, D. M., Lynskey, M. T., & Horwood, L. J. (1996). Childhood sexual abuse and psychiatric disorder in young adulthood: I. Prevalence of sexual abuse and factors associated with sexual abuse. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 35, 1355–1364
Fonagy, P., Steele, M., Steele, H., Higgitt, A., & Target, M. (1994). The Emanuel Miller memorial lecture 1992: The theory and practice of resilience. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35, 231–257
Garmezy, N. (1971). Vulnerability research and the issue of primary prevention. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 41, 101–116
Garmezy, N. (1985). Stress-resistant children: The search for protective factors. In J. E. Stevenson (Ed.), Recent research in developmental psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry Book Supplement No. 4 (pp. 213–233). Oxford: Pergamon Press
Garmezy, N. (1987). Stress, competence, and development: Continuities in the study of schizophrenic adults, children vulnerable to psychopathology, and the search for stress-resistant children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57, 159–174
Gribble, P. A., Cowen, E. L., Wyman, P. A., Work, W. C., Wannon, M., & Raoof, A. (1993). Parent and child views of parent–child relationship qualities and resilient outcomes among urban children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34, 507–520
Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., & Miller, J. Y. (1992). Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: Implications for substance abuse prevention. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 64–105
Heath, A. C., Cloninger, C. R., & Martin, N. G. (1994). Testing a model for the genetic structure of personality: A comparison of the personality systems of Cloninger and Eysenck. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 762–775
Herrenkohl, E. C., Herrenkohl, R. C., & Egolf, B. (1994). Resilient early school-age children from maltreating homes: Outcomes in late adolescence. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 64, 301–309
Hetherington, E. M. (1989). Coping with family transitions: Winners, losers and survivors. Child Development, 60, 1–14
Horwood, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (1998). Psychiatric disorder and treatment seeking in a birth cohort of young adults. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Health
Jenkins, J. N., & Smith, M. A. (1990). Factors protecting children living in disharmonious homes: Maternal reports. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 29, 60–69
Kandel, E., Mednick, S. A., Kirkegaard-Sorenson, L., Hutchings, B., Knop, J., Rosenberg, R., & Schulsinger, F. (1988). IQ as a protective factor for subjects at high risk for antisocial behavior. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 224–226
Loeber, R. (1990). Development and risk factors of juvenile antisocial behavior and delinquency. Clinical Psychology Review, 10, 1–41
Luthar, S. S. (1991). Vulnerability and resilience: A study of high-risk adolescents. Child Development, 62, 600–616
Luthar, S. S. (1993). Annotation: Methodological and conceptual issues in research on childhood resilience. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34, 441–453
Masten, A. S., Garmezy, N., Tellegen, A., Pellegrini, D. S., Larkin, K., & Larsen, A. (1988). Competence and stress in school children: The moderating effects of individual and family qualities. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 29, 745–764
Masten, A. S., Morison, P., Pellegrini, D., & Tellegen, A. (1990). Competence under stress: Risk and protective factors. In J. Rolfe, A. S. Masten, D. Cicchetti, K. H. Nuechterlein, & S. Weintraub (Eds.), Risk and protective factors in the development of psychopathology (pp. 236–256). New York: Cambridge University Press
Parker, G., Tupling, H., & Brown, L. B. (1979). A parental bonding instrument. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 52, 1–10
Patterson, G. R., DeBaryshe, B. D., & Ramsey, E. (1989). A developmental perspective on antisocial behavior. American Psychologist, 44, 329–335
Porter, B., & O'Leary, K. D. (1980). Marital discord and childhood behavior problems. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 8, 287–295
Quinton, D., Pickles, A., Maughan, B., & Rutter, M. (1993). Partners, peers and pathways: Assortative pairing and continuities in conduct disorder. Development and Psychopathology, 5, 763–783
Rutter, M. (1979). Protective factors in children's response to stress and disadvantage. In J. S. Bruner & A. Garden (Eds.), Primary prevention of psychopathology (Vol. 3, pp. 49–74). Hanover, NH: University Press of New England
Rutter, M. (1985). Resilience in the face of adversity: Protective factors and resistance to psychiatric disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 598–611
Rutter, M. (1990). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. In J. Rolfe, D. Masten, D. Cicchetti, K. Neuchterlein, & S. Weintraub (Eds.), Risk and protective factors in the development of psychopathology (pp. 316–331). New York: Cambridge University Press
Rutter, M., & Giller, H. (1983). Juvenile delinquency: Trends and perspectives. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin Books
Rutter, M., & Madge, N. (1976). Cycles of disadvantage: A review of research. London: Heinemann
Rutter, M., Tizard, J., & Whitmore, K. (1970). Education, health and behaviour. London: Longmans
Sameroff, A. J., & Seifer, R. (1990). Early contributors to developmental risk. In J. Rolf, A. S. Masten, D. Cicchetti, K. H. Nuechterlein, & S. Weintraub (Eds.), Risk and protective factors in the development of psychopathology (pp. 52–66). New York: Cambridge University Press
Sameroff, A., Seifer, R., Barocas, R., Zax, M., & Greenspan, A. (1987). Intelligence quotient scores of 4-year-old children: Social environmental risk factors. Pediatrics, 79, 343–350
Seifer, R., Sameroff, A. J., Baldwin, C. P., & Baldwin, A. (1992). Child and family factors that ameliorate risk between 4 and 13 years of age. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 893–903
Shaw, D. S., & Emery, E. E. (1988). Chronic family adversity and school-age children's adjustment. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27, 200–206
Shaw, D. S., Vondra, J. I., Hommerding, K. D., Keenan, K., & Dunn, M. (1994). Chronic family adversity and early child behaviour problems: A longitudinal study of low income families. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35, 1109–1122
Straus, M. A. (1979). Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: The Conflict Tactics (CT) Scales. Journal of Marriage and the Family, February, 41, 75–88
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1980). Surviving the breakup: How children and parents cope with divorce. London: Grant McIntyre
Werner, E. E. (1989). High risk children in young adulthood: A longitudinal study from birth to 32 years. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 59, 72–81
Werner, E. E., & Smith, R. S. (1992). Overcoming the odds: High-risk children from birth to adulthood. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press
World Health Organization. (1993). Composite international diagnostic interview (CIDI). Geneva: World Health Organization
Wyman, P. A., Cowen, E. L., Work, W. C., & Parker, G. R. (1991). Developmental and family milieu correlates of resilience in urban children who have experienced major life stress. American Journal of Community Psychology, 19, 405–426