Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. Fosters Resilience


Resilience is an individual's capacity for adapting to change and stressful events in healthy and flexible ways. Resilience has been identified in research studies as a characteristic of youth who, when exposed to multiple risk factors, show successful responses to challenge, and use this learning to achieve successful outcomes (Rutter, 1985; Hawkins et al., 1992; Masten, Best & Garmezy, 1990; Werner, 1995, 1989). The National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council (1996: 4) defined resilience as "patterns that protect children from adopting problem behaviors in the face of risk." Rutter (1987a; 1985) described protective mechanisms associated with four main processes of resilience, including reduction of risk impact, reduction of negative behavior patterns, the establishment and maintenance of self esteem and self-efficacy, and the opening up of opportunities. Thornberry, Huizinga and Loeber (1995) suggested that resilience involves adaptive responses to such environmental stressors as changes in family or community circumstances.

Operational Definition.  Programs were classified as fostering resilience if they emphasized strategies for adaptive coping responses to change and stress, and promoted psychological flexibility and capacity.