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Psychosocial Constraints on the Development of Resilience


Address for correspondence: Arnold J. Sameroff, Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, 300 N. Ingalls Ann Arbor, MI 48105. Voice: 734-764-2443; fax: 734-936-9288.


Abstract: Although resilience is usually thought to reside in individuals, developmental research is increasingly demonstrating that characteristics of the social context may be better predictors of resilience. When the relative contribution of early resilience and environmental challenges to later child mental health and academic achievement were compared in a longitudinal study from birth to adolescence, indicators of child resilience, such as the behavioral and emotional self-regulation characteristic of good mental health, and the cognitive self-regulation characteristic of high intelligence contributed to later competence. However, the effects of such individual resilience did not overcome the effects of high environmental challenge, such as poor parenting, antisocial peers, low-resource communities, and economic hardship. The effects of single environmental challenges become very large when accumulated into multiple risk scores even affecting the development of offspring in the next generation.

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