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Resilience - Young People's Defence

Originally presented at the Trauma in Youth conference at the University of Chester

Dave Wilson

on 19 March 2012

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Transcript of Resilience - Young People's Defence

Resilience - Young People's Defence!
What professionals working with young people need to know!
Resilience in the context of this presentation, stems from branches of psychology and to some extent sociology.
It is the ability to recover from difficulties and to positively respond to stress
to be able to function well and move forward optimistically
Being resilient will require young people to have skills in adaptation, the ability to master new techniques and be able to buffer stresses that come their way! But that requires certain strengths...
Those strengths include:
healthy relationships
(Thompson, 2006)
Masten, A.S., Best, K.M., & Garmezy, N. (1990). Resilience and development: Contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity. Development and Psychopathology, 2, 425-444.
Newman, T. (2004) What Works in Building Resilience? Barnardo's. Essex, UK.
Thompson, R. A. (2006) Nurturing Future Generations. Routledge. New York.
Zubin, J., & Spring, B. (1977). Vulnerability: A new view of schizophrenia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 86, 103-126
Why do some young people have resilience, when others do not?
Risk Factors are any factor or selection of factors that may increase the chance of having an undesirable outcome for a person. They are based on statistics drawn from sceintific study. They vary depending on who or what is being observed, e.g.
what risks are associated with transport bridge collapsing?
What risk factors can increase the chances of of a child becoming a young offender?
What are the risk factors of a child developing a serious mental illness?
Vulnerability: a feature that renders a person more susceptible to a threat and can be hard to change! Vulnerabilities may be genetically aquired, they may include early life events.
Who then, are resilient children and how does resilience show itself? Masten et al (1990) have identified three kinds of resilience among groups of children. These are:
Resilience = “bouncing back” from challenges.
Unable to cope!!!!
Breaking Point!

When thinking about resilience, other features have to be taken into consideration
However a young person may have protective factors that moderate the effects of risk.
Zubin & Spring (1977) created a model to understand schizophrenia, that didn't just rely on a medical explanation, but looked at enviromental impact, social impact, behaviours etc.
Children who do not succumb to adversities, despite their high-risk status, for example babies born prematurely.
Children who develop coping strategies in situations of chronic stress, for example the children as carers of adults with chronic or terminal illness, or children of substance misusing parents.
Children who have suffered extreme trauma, for example sexual abuse, rape, witness to domestic violence, victims of prolonged bullying, sudden death of a close relative, survivors of natural disasters
Resilient children, therefore, are those who resist adversity, manage to cope with uncertainty and are able to recover successfully from trauma (Newman, 2004).
If we can reduce stress, and reduce vulnerabilities in a young person, we can move that young person further away from breaking point!
The model can also help explain why some children and young people may have resilience, and why others might not.
Insight or understanding of your own emotions and the ability to communicate these to others
independent thoughts and being able to make autonomous decisions
the ability to find compromise as part of social interaction
ambition and to explore ideas
to turn those ambitions and dreams into something real and to have a broad range of interests (sporting, hobbies, causes, etc)
the ability to use humour that is appropriate, and that can be used effectively, e.g. to cheer one's self up, to cheer other people up, or to deflate aggressive situations
the ability to show compassion and empathy to others (e.g. treat others how you want to be treated)
Blue face person has low vulnerabilities and therefore is able to face lots of stress before reaching breaking point!
Red face person has high levels of vulnerability and therefore only needs a small amount of stress to reach breaking point
However it has been argued that compared to previous generations, the children of today have fewer coping mechanisms and therefore are becoming less resilient. What will it mean for future generations if we do not act now? (Newman, 2004)
Resilience comes from the Latin,
resiliens or resilire
which means, elasticity or pliability
Can you think of examples where your generation has been less or more protected than the current generation?
I can think of playground safety as one example!
My local park where I grew up has a playground. Back in the early 1980's:
it had a concrete floor - it is now all wood chippings
dogs were allowed in - dogs are banned
the swings seats were made of metal - now made of rubber
the only sign stated "No Litter" - now it's: "no smoking, no children over 14 years of age, no dogs, no glass bottles, no this that and the other!"
I assume the council don't want children to have fun!
rubber crash mats
Rubber seats
fenced off
Examples of risk factors for mental illness include:
academic failure
low self-esteem
parental conflict
family breakdown
parental substance misuse
Protective factors and risk factors will depend on what it is that you are trying to predict e.g. will child
be more at risk of developing offending behaviour than child
? Will child
be at greater risk of developing a mental illness than child
Examples of protective factors against mental illness include:
having a strong sense of humour
at least one good parent/child attachment
good housing
access to sport and leisure activities
high standard of living
attendance of a school with strong academic and non-academic opportunities
It may help practitioners working with young people identify how to increase resilience:
by reducing stresses,
through educating young people
and enable young people to make informed choices
The outcome of which will hopefully strengthen resilience!

By using that stress vulnerability model we can predict to a certain extent if a young person is likely to be resilient or not!
As practitioners we can also encourage young people to think of what coping mechanisms they have already.
1) I am...
these are internal strengths a young person will have and includes emotions. Examples include "I am happy", "I am loved by my family"
2) I have...
these are external support systems that a young person will have. Examples include "I have an older brother who looks out for me", "I have a youth worker who taught me about safer sex"
3) I can...
These are the social skills that a young person will need. Examples include, "I can ask my youth worker about the dangers of drinking too much", "I can ask my carer for help, if I am being bullied"
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