Resilience and development
Masten (2009) demonstrates that resilience arises naturally from the interaction of the same basic adaptive systems that foster and protect human development.
From the outset, modern resilience research has incorporated developmental perspectives, which are crucial for making an accurate evaluation of risk, adversity, or trauma experiences that may threaten individual adaptation. British psychologist Michael Rutter (1987) consolidated the link between resilience and human development by defining resilience as “…behaviourally manifested success at negotiating salient developmental tasks, in spite of major stressors and possible underlying emotional distress’’ (p317). Consequently, age-salient developmental tasks were used to define and measure positive adaptation in numerous studies of resilience, including the Kauai Longitudinal Study (Werner & Smith, 1982, 1992) and Project Competence (Masten & Powell, 2003).
The “Positive Youth Development” movement (Silberstein & Lerner, 2007) employs Developmental Systems Theory (DST) as the theoretical underpinning for its developmental assets concept. Intensive and sustained investigation has identified internal and external assets whose availability to children and young people is associated with healthy development (Lerner & Benson, 2003). Ungar (2006) makes the point that the concept of developmental assets has moved resilience research beyond explaining the small percentage of young people that do not manifest expected negative outcomes through the experience of adversity, to understanding how positive developmental processes and pathways can be supported.
The influence of culture
Almost all resilience research, until recently, was based on culturally specific views about how ‘normal’ functioning is defined and the outcomes or behaviours deemed to be indicative of success or failure. For this reason, early definitions reflected mainstream Western cultural and social norms and were heavily weighted towards the sorts of outcomes emphasised in an individualistic culture (Harvey & Delfabbro, 2004, p6).
Resilience researchers and theorists have started exploring the influence of culture in defining the criteria for judging good adaptation and reinforcing resilience. The term ‘cultural resilience’ is frequently used to denote the role that culture may play as a resource for individuals, but it also applies to whole communities or entire cultural systems. Fleming and Ledogar (2008) define community or cultural resilience as “…the capacity of a distinct community or cultural system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to retain key elements of structure and identity that preserve its distinctness” (p10).