An overall view in the Indian scenario

Authored by: Kamlesh Singh , Jasleen Kaur

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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The term “resilience” owes its origin to Latin word resilio, which means to restore a bent or a stretched object to its original shape. While “resilience” made its first appearance in physics in 1858 when Scottish engineer William Rankine used it in the context of mechanics to describe the strength and ductility of steel beams (Alexander, 2013), the successful transition of “resilience” from physics to psychology happened in early 1970s when Norman Garmezy studied the adaptive behaviour of children belonging to schizophrenic mothers, deemed to be at high risk due to unfavourable environment. This led to the development of Garmezy’s project, “Project Competence”, which studied the competence of children in high-risk and stressful environments. Project Competence proved to be influential in inspiring other researchers to gain an understanding as to what makes some children thrive despite their ill circumstances. This recognition was responsible for the concept of “resilience” gaining popularity in wider circles of psychology, and the focus of research gradually widened to study individuals who successfully transcended the life’s adversities to emerge unscathed. Rutter (1987) aptly termed resilience as an interactive concept in which the presence of resilience has to be inferred from individual variations in outcome among individuals who have experienced significant major stress or adversity. Abrams (2001) defined resilience as the ability to readily recover from illness, depression, and adversity. The subject of resilience often broaches in the context of adversity, traumatic event, or any other stressful situation. In the face of such an event, what is it that makes people resilient? Explanations range from personality traits to role of genetics and to influence of environmental factors. For example Masten (2001) viewed resilience as part of the genetic makeup of humans and as the norm rather than the exception. According to her,

What began as a quest to understand the extraordinary has revealed the power of the ordinary. Resilience does not come from rare and special qualities, but from the everyday magic of ordinary, normative human resources in the minds, brains, and bodies of children, in their families and relationships, and in their communities.

While Zolkoski and Bullock (2012) believed that everyone is born with an innate capacity for resilience, others (Antonovsky, 1979; Kobasa, 1982) viewed resilience as an attribute of an individual. The role of certain personality traits that make a person pre-disposed to resilience has also been explored. For example Luthar and Zigler (1991) identified certain qualities that resilient children possess. These children were found to be active, humourous, confident, competent, prepared to take risks, flexible, and, as a result of repeated successful coping experiences, confident in both their inner and outer resources. Sapienza and Masten (2011) highlighted the role of IQ, self-regulation, and positive self-perceptions in resilient children. The role of environmental factors cannot be ignored in the context of resilience. Positive parenting and schools play an important role in promoting resilience (Luthar, 2006; Masten, 2007), as well as nurturing interpersonal relationships and social support (Howell, Graham-Bermann, Czyz, & Lilly, 2010; Salami, 2010). In several studies of older adults, strong social networks predicted higher resilience (Hinck, 2004; Kinsel, 2005). Schofield (2001) identified a combination of individual and environmental factors as essential components of resilience – social support networks, the capacity to discover meaning and therefore motivation in life (such as religious or other spiritual belief), social skills to give control over life events, self-esteem, and even a sense of humour. Truffino (2010) enumerated various characteristics the degree of which decides the resiliency of individuals. It includes intrapersonal as well as interpersonal characteristics – control over the process of remembering traumatic experiences, integration of memory and emotions; regulation of emotions related to trauma; control of symptoms; self-esteem; internal cohesion (thoughts, emotions, and actions); establishment of secure links; understanding the impact of the trauma; and developing a positive meaning. Fiona (2011) believed that a secure base, good self-esteem, and a sense of self-efficacy made up the building blocks of resilience. Thus, it is not just individual or environmental factors but their interaction that is important while studying resilience.

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