Resilience: The Meanings, Methods, and Measures of a Fundamental Characteristic of Human Adaptation

Alex J. Zautra and John W. Reich

in The Oxford Handbook of Stress, Health, and Coping

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780195375343
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Resilience: The Meanings, Methods, and Measures of a Fundamental Characteristic of Human Adaptation

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Moving from a disease model of stress and coping to the more integrative model of positive influences represents a fundamental shift in our understanding of how people adapt to and grow in their environment. This new paradigm has raised stress and coping approaches into a framework that models the extent to which personal strengths and other psychosocial resources contribute to the prediction of resilience, independent of the catalog of risks and vulnerabilities identified within the person and his or her social network. We describe this resilience paradigm and review current evidence for its utility in this chapter. In doing so, we point out how the work of Susan Folkman presaged the current attention to models of resilience by calling attention to the importance of coping and positive adaptations to stressful life experience. Three features predominate in scientific discourse on resilience: recovery, sustainability, and growth. These features are inherent to virtually any type of organized entity, from a simple biological system to a person, an organization, a neighborhood, a community, a city, a state, or even a nation. We illustrate further how variables such as “trust,” thought to be central to resilience, are best understood as multi-level constructs, with meanings, measures, and potential interventions at the biological, psychosocial, organizational, and community level. In conclusion, we see this paradigm shift to resilience to be a valuable direction for future research, a highly appealing framework for the design of clinical and community interventions, and a refreshing new perspective that offers exciting new directions for public health and public policy.

Keywords:  resilience; positive adaptation; stress; adversity; recovery; sustainability; growth; positive emotion; social capital; multi-level; job enrichment; community psychology; positive mental health; positive psychology; coping

Article.  9313 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Health Psychology ; Social Psychology

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