The resilience processes of Black South African young people

A contextualised perspective

Authored by: Linda C. Theron

The Routledge International Handbook of Psychosocial Resilience

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138954878
eBook ISBN: 9781315666716
Adobe ISBN: 9781317355946


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Positive adjustment to significant adversity, or resilience, is a complex, multi-level process that supports functional outcomes as defined by a given social system at a given point in time (Masten, 2014). Amongst others, this process demands constructive interplay between individuals and their social systems. Such interaction is typically comprised of universally occurring psychosocial processes including, amongst others, attachment, agency, and mastery; problem solving; and meaning making (see Masten & Wright, 2010, pp. 222–229 for details). Although they are common to young people’s adjustment globally, these processes are necessarily shaped by contextual realities and by cultural expectations, values, and practices (Panter-Brick, 2015). This means that the form that these processes take, and which are likely to be prioritised, will depend on the sociocultural context in which young people are embedded (Ungar, 2011). For example along the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway, young men are more likely to draw on attachments to their uncles to support their adaptation (Nystad, Spein, & Ingstad, 2014), whereas on mainland China, Chinese youngsters will turn to their biological parents before considering any alternate source of support (Tian & Wang, 2015). Their choices are shaped by the prevailing cultural expectations and living arrangements. Moreover, resilience-supporting interventions that disrespect the cultural and contextual relativity of adaptive processes will probably be sub-optimal. Consequently, resilience theorists are urged to provide contextualised explanations of resilience – i.e. to account for how culture and context shape the psychosocial processes that protect young people against adversity (Masten, 2014; Panter-Brick, 2015; Ungar, 2011, 2015).

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