Editorial Commentary: Resilience in child development – interconnected pathways to wellbeing

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Abstract

Resilience offers the promise of a paradigm shift in many fields of research, clinical practice, and policy. A lens on resilience shifts the focus of attention – from concerted efforts to appraise risk or vulnerability, towards concerted efforts to enhance strength or capability. It also shifts the focus of analysis – from asking relatively limited questions regarding health outcomes, such as what are the linkages between risk exposures and functional deficits, to asking more complex questions regarding wellbeing, such as when, how, why and for whom do resources truly matter. Thus we might ask when interventions are most effective, within the time frame of human development and evolutionary life history; and how do we best measure pathways of human experience, to uncover ways in which individuals and communities withstand adversity.

To many, resilience is an intuitive, albeit opaque, concept – akin to fortitude in the face of adversity. We may have an intuitive grasp of what resilience means, but fall short of measuring it comprehensively and meaningfully (the same is true of risk). This Annual Research Review issue features ten articles from leaders in the field on how resilience can transform the field of child development. Each articulates important lessons on resilience some of which we editors wish to summarize at the outset. First, resilience is best understood as a process that unfolds over the course of development; consequently, we seek to understand human experience of adversity as pathways of risk and resilience. Second, research on resilience focuses attention on the biological and social trade-offs in human experience: issues of timing, process, and context to understand change or adaptability.

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