Understanding and promoting resilience in children and youth

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Purpose of review

In a context of global concern about the consequences of stress and extreme adversities, advances in theory and methods for studying human resilience have ushered in a new era of integrative, biopsychosocial research. This review highlights recent theory, findings, and implications of resilience research on young people.

Recent findings

Resilience research has shifted toward dynamic system models with multiple levels of interaction, including research on the neurobiology of stress and adaption, epigenetic processes, and disasters. Growing evidence indicates individual differences in biological sensitivity to negative and positive experiences, including interventions. Early experiences show enduring programming effects on key adaptive systems, underscoring the importance of early intervention. Studies of developmental cascades demonstrate spreading effects of competence and symptoms over time, with important implications for the timing and targeting of interventions. Disaster research suggests guidelines for planning to protect children in the event of large-scale trauma.


Research is integrating the study of resilience across system levels, with implications for promoting positive adaptation of young people faced with extreme adversity. However, studies on neurobiological and epigenetic processes are just beginning, and more research is needed on efficacy, as well as strategic timing and targeting, of interventions.

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