Resilience Theory (A comprehensive guide)

In this brief guide, we will look at Resilience theory and some factors that play a role in the development of resilience. We will also look at things like Resilience theory in education and resilience theory examples.

Resilience Theory

Resilience theory says that it’s not the nature of adversity that is most important, what is more important is how we deal with it, and according to this theory, when we face adversity, misfortune, or frustration, our resilience is what helps us bounce back. 

Resilience theory says that resilience helps us survive and recover, when we see people who seem to flourish even in the face of adversity, they might be individuals who thrive because of their resilience.

Resilience theory also takes into account the factors in one’s life that are beneficial for their ability to deal with the adversities in their life.

Resilience theory focuses attention on any positive contextual, social, and individual variables that interfere with or disrupt developmental trajectories and these variables may range from risk to problem behaviors, mental distress, and poor health outcomes. 

In resilience theory any positive contextual, social, and individual variables that are affecting the individual’s resilience, are called promotive factors.

According to Ledesma, Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity, frustration, and misfortune.

Luthans says that resilience is the developable capacity to rebound or bounce back from adversity, conflict, and failure or even positive events, progress, and increased responsibility, and this definition addresses an important part of resilience, which is the fact that it can be developed and there is potential to teach someone to be resilient.                    

Resilience has also been defined as a stable trajectory of healthy functioning after a highly adverse event and this definition was given by Bonanno.

 Ann Masten, the most well-known student of Norman Gramezy who was the proponent of the Resilience theory, has given the definition of resilience that says that resilience is the capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully, and this is yet another definition that focuses on the individual’s reaction and response to the adversity, rather than the adversity itself.

The nature of resilience as it has been defined says that it is a construct that can have a different meaning depending on the people, companies, cultures, and society under scrutiny, and individual factors are much more important to resilience than anything else.

On the other hand, there is also a concept known as Family resilience theory, which can be defined in several ways. 

The first perspective on daily resilience theory is that resilience refers to the “characteristics, dimensions, and properties of families which help families to be resistant to disruption in the face of change and adaptive in the face of crisis situations’’, and this perspective has been given by McCubbin & McCubbin.

The above definition of resilience defines it in terms of family dynamics and family systems, and another, more recent perspective has defined resilience as the “capacity of the family, as a functional system, to withstand and rebound from stressful life challenges – emerging strengthened and more resourceful’’, and this definition was given by Walsh.

These definitions show that the concept of individual psychological or emotional resilience can be applied to a familial level to understand exactly how resilience meets the family system and the effect families can have on each other and the members’ abilities to cope with difficult circumstances.

A key feature of family resilience theory is that it seeks to study how families respond together as an entity when faced with challenges, and over the longer term.

Resilience theory in Education

Resilience theory in Education related settings is known as academic resilience, and it refers to students achieving good outcomes despite adversity they may have faced, and like other types of resilience, academic resilience can also be honed and developed on purpose.

At a school level, resilience theory in education says that there can be strategies that aim at promoting it and they may involve specific planning and detailed practice that may involve the whole school community to help vulnerable young people who have faced adversity to do better than their circumstances or faced situations might have predicted or what other children might have done in the face of those same conditions.

Resilience theory in education plays an extremely important role, because it can sometimes also explain any internalizing or externalizing behavior that the child may be engaging in, as children often cope with academic pressures and other pressures by acting out or acting in, and if they have either of these behaviors and problems, they can cause problems with academics as well.

To help with the child’s education, it is important to foster their resilience as best as one can, and for this there needs to be a unifying theory that seeks to explain some of the issues children can face and some solutions for these issues as well.

It has also been posited under resilience theory for education that some brainy children, school may be a refuge and a much calmer, safer place than home if they are experiencing adversities at home in the face of parental conflict or abuse of any kind.

These children may often be attracted to the structure and routine of the school and they may already be primed for an outlet for their passion and intellect, which means they might react well to the opportunity of studying and doing well at school.

There are also certain advantages that some children may have that are more likely to do well at school  and these may include intelligence, height, looks, etc plus stable home life or even educated parents and decent housing.

These kinds of factors are known to increase the likelihood of academic attainment, which is why under academic resilience, one would try to focus on bringing the child to a point where they are paying more attention to their positive attributes rather than thinking about any negative ones in their lives.

Resilience Theory Examples

There are many studies that can be featured as great Resilience theory examples, and these are all discussed below.

Some studies exploring child sexual abuse found that being abused by a family member had more negative impact on the child than a non-family member. 

Another study found that women were more likely to be distressed when they experienced extra familial abuse while some researchers found that negative parental responses and lack of support can exacerbate the negative effects of molestation while parental support and cohesion (positive affirmation) within the family can reduce psychological distress and promote social competence. 

A study done to study family variables showed that these variables can highly contribute in significant ways to resilience among women who had a childhood history sexual abuse.

There has been a wide range of cognitive and behavioral responses and outcomes among trauma survivors and researchers have found an association between psychological trauma and mental disorders. 

Additionally, it is interesting to note that religious coping has also been seen among individuals who suffered from severe disease. 

A study done by Fallot and Heckman found that spiritual coping was a common way of dealing with extreme stressors. It was also found that spiritual coping had a positive effect on women.

Other Research has shown that cardiovascular disease has been one of the main causes of loss of life accounting to one third of all loss globally and therefore, the experience of chronic illness like CVD is shown to influence not only the patient but also family members.

This study found that about 83% of participants identified emotional support as being one of the important factors for adaptation by the family. Resilience also depended on the individual characteristics of family, which included having a positive outlook and an understanding of acceptance of new circumstances.

Another study looked into the importance of individual and community resilience among homosexual and bisexual young people where it was found that having support systems, especially at community level promoted well-being as well as buffer against mental distress both among LGBT youth and adults.

One study reported that adolescent runaways who had previously experienced moderate levels of family experience factors were more resilient to depression than those that were exposed to either very low or very high levels of family risk.

Children resilient to stress were found to be more empathetic and have a more internal and realistic sense of control. They were also found to have positive coping strategies as well as effective problem-solving skills.

Resilience and Disaster Management

Resilience has been linked most of all to disasters and disaster management, because how people cope with the same kind of natural disaster in the same way holds much intrigue to many researchers.

Naturally triggered disasters cause serious disruptions resulting from complex interaction between natural and human settings. 

A study done by Davies explores how communities exposed to environments that are prone to natural disasters build resilience. 

This study looked into various commercial and community resilience against such disasters, because these communities are prone to natural disasters due to the environment, it is important to learn resilience against such shocks, which is good because this understanding and managing the risks helps in building resilience. 

The adoption of complex system behaviors would lead to departure from the usual social behavior, but nevertheless in such cases the disaster specific scenarios are selected and its full impacts are estimated which helps in planning societal behavior and reducing disaster impacts.  

Thus, events and effect scenarios are most effective if they are co-developed in community specific teams. 

There is a growing literature on the use of such complex system concepts in the development of community resilience.


In this brief guide, we looked at Resilience theory and some factors that play a role in the development of resilience. We also looked at things like Resilience theory in education and resilience theory examples.

Resilience theory is an important concept to explain how people are able to tolerate as much as they do and how they cope with the stressful situations in their life.

People have their strategies and specific styles in which they work through problems, and these need to be explained through theories like resilience theory because this way experts can also learn and teach them

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Resilience Theory

Who developed resilience theory?

Resilience theory was developed by Norman Garmezy, who was a professor at the University of Minnesota, and his contribution was so notable that he was called the “grandfather of resilience theory” by the New York Times magazine.

Garmezy’s most notable student, Ann Masten, is also very famous in the field of Resilience theory, and she says that Garmezy’s seminal work has led to studies around the world that have looked at promoting healthy development in children affected by war, famine, poverty and other disasters.

What are the 7 C’s of resilience?

The 7 C’s of resilience are competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control, according to pediatrician Dr Ginsburg, who is also a leading human development expert.

What is family resilience theory?

Family resilience refers to a strengths-oriented approach that emphasizes positive outcomes at the overall family system level as well as within family systems and in individual family members along with the family-ecosystem fit and recognizes the subjective meanings families bring to understanding risk, protection, and adaptation.


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