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Resilience and development: Contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity

  • Ann S. Masten (a1), Karin M. Best (a1) and Norman Garmezy (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 31 October 2008

This article reviews the research on resilience in order to delineate its significance and potential for understanding normal development. Resilience refers to the process of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenging or threatening circumstances. Three resilience phenomena are reviewed: (a) good outcomes in high-risk children, (b) sustained competence in children under stress, and (c) recovery from trauma. It is concluded that human psychological development is highly buffered and that long-lasting consequences of adversity usually are associated with either organic damage or severe interference in the normative protective processes embedded in the caregiving system. Children who experience chronic adversity fare better or recover more successfully when they have a positive relationship with a competent adult, they are good learners and problem-solvers, they are engaging to other people, and they have areas of competence and perceived efficacy valued by self or society. Future studies of resilience will need to focus on processes that facilitate adaptation. Such studies have the potential to illuminate the range and self-righting properties of, constraints on, and linkages among different aspects of cognitive, emotional, and social development.

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