Annual Research Review: Resilience and child well-being – public policy implications


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared


Background:  There has been an 8-fold increase in use of the term resilience within scientific and scholar literature over the last twenty years. The arena of public policy has also seen increasing use made of the concept, both with respect to child well-being and development and wider issues.

Method:  A focal sample of literature comprising 108 papers addressing public policy implications of work on child resilience was identified by a structured bibliographic search.

Results:  This literature suggests that current work: is characterized by a breadth of sectoral engagement across the fields of education, social work, and health; demonstrates diversity with regard to the systemic levels – individual (biological and psychological), communal (including systems of faith and cultural identity), institutional and societal – with which it engages; but is based more upon conceptual rather than empirical analysis. Major themes of policy recommendation target strengthened family dynamics, increased capacity for counseling and mental health services, supportive school environments, development of community programs, promotion of socioeconomic improvement and adoption of a more comprehensive conception of resilience. Evaluations of resiliency-informed policy initiatives are limited in number, with greatest rigor in design associated with more discrete programmatic interventions.

Conclusion:  A number of strategies to strengthen research-policy linkages are identified. These include greater commitment to operationalize indicators of resilience at all levels of analysis; more coherent engagement with the policy making process through explicit knowledge translation initiatives; and developing complex adaptive systems models amenable to exploring policy scenarios.