resilience in action

Everyone faces obstacles in life. Have you ever noticed that some people give up easily in the face of these obstacles, while others strive to overcome them? The reason is that some people are more resilient than others. This may lead you to wonder why. Is it because they learned how to be resilient over time, or were they just born with a high level of resilience? In this post we explore how resiliency is developed and the different factors that can influence its development.

Resiliency Begins at Birth

mother and child

Everyone is born with the capacity to learn to be resilient. There is debate over whether resilience is primarily inherited or learned. Some researchers believe that resiliency is an innate ability, related to one’s genetics. Other researchers think that resiliency is developed via interactions with the environment: things like personal relationships, community interaction and education. Still others feel that resiliency is a personal, learned ability. In reality, resiliency is probably influenced by all of these different factors.

Internal Factors

Developing resiliency is a complex process that is in some ways unpredictable. Arthur J. Reynolds, a professor at the University of Minnesota, explains that resilience is not a one-dimensional thing. There is a chain reaction that leads to resilience later in life, and that chain reaction begins when children are very young.

mother and son

There are two important parts of this chain reaction that begin early in life:

The Parental Bond. The strength of the parental bond established in the first three years of life sets the tone for the rest of life. Studies that follow children to adulthood show that parental bonds influence future success more than almost any other factor.

Personality. Being born with a certain set of personality characteristics can have an effect on the chain reaction of resilience. A child born with an easygoing temperament or a certain amount of intelligence appears to have an advantage over other children when it comes to resilience.

External Factors

resilient teen

Internal factors alone do not fully explain the development of resiliency. Researchers have identified some skills that increase the chances that a child will become more resilient. Some of these skills would be things like having a sense of autonomy or being a good reader. Belief systems, like believing you have a future or practicing a religious faith, can also play a role.

Factors that Weaken Resilience

sad teen

Just as internal and external factors can increase resilience, there are negative factors that can decrease the development of resiliency. Some of these factors include:

  • Having parents who are mentally ill
  • Parents who are alcoholics
  • Having parents who are in jail
  • Living in severe poverty
  • Being exposed to or being a victim of violence
  • Experiencing abuse
  • Being removed from the home

Even though all these factors can weaken resilience, many children do not succumb to these obstacles in life. Resiliency research over the years has shown that children born into highly dysfunctional families have between a 50-70% chance of developing the social competence necessary to overcome their situations and become successful.

Factors that Increase Resilience

Just as there are factors that can weaken resilience, there are also factors that can increase resilience. The following are things that you can actively work with your students on to improve their development of resiliency.

Developing Talents

teen playing guitar

Children who are resilient have often found something they are better at than anyone else. For example, a child may possess athletic, academic, or musical talents at which they excel. Developing these talents requires that they commit to certain goals and learn to work toward those goals. This teaches them to work hard until they reach success.

Having a Support System

Another major factor related to resiliency is having a supportive environment, or people who care deeply about the child and want them to succeed. Parents or caregivers are the first people who can provide a support system. Other key players in a supportive environment could be friends, teachers, bosses/managers, ministers, neighbors, or community members.

Having a Sense of Humor

happy friends

People strong in emotional resilience are able to laugh at life’s difficulties, even at an early age. This can be a huge asset, as it shifts one’s perspective from seeing things as a threat to seeing them as a challenge. They are able to overcome obstacles and disappointments more easily, as well as handle stress better.

We hope this post was informative and got you thinking about the different ways resiliency is developed. If you would like to see how our Bullying Prevention Map can measure your program participants level of resiliency and give you a leg up with your skill interventions click the free trial link below.