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Abstract

Families, as social systems, can be considered “resilient” in ways that parallel descriptions of individual resilience. In this article, the conceptualization of family-level outcomes as a prerequisite for assessing family competence, and hence their resilience, is presented relative to the unique functions that families perform for their members and for society. The risk and protective processes that give rise to resilience in families are discussed in terms of family stress and coping theory, with a particular emphasis on the family's subjective appraisal of their sources of stress and their ability to manage them. An effort is made to distinguish two perspectives on resilience: exposure to significant risk as a prerequisite for being considered resilient versus promotion of strengths for all families in which life in general is viewed as risky. Implications for practitioners and policy makers in working with families to promote their resilience are discussed. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 58: 233–246, 2002.