Resilience Guide: A Collection of Resources on Resilience in Children and Families

edited by Bernard Cesarone
Catalog #223; 1999




Selected Readings

  • A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children: Strengthening the Human Spirit
    Edith H. Grotberg
  • Developing Resilience in Urban Youth
    Linda F. Winfield
  • A Framework for Practice: Tapping Innate Resilience Bonnie Benard and Kathy Marshall
  • Exploring the Dynamics of Resilience in an Elementary School
    Saundra Murray Nettles and Frances P. Robinson
  • Fostering Resilience in Children
    Bonnie Benard (1995)
    English | Spanish | Chinese
  • Turning It Around for All Youth: From Risk to Resilience
    Bonnie Benard
  • Cultivating Resilience: An Overview for Rural Educators and Parents
    Mary Finley
  • Violence and Young Children's Development
    Lorraine B. Wallach

Internet Resources: On Resilience

Internet Resources: Research Institutions and Innovative Projects

Resilience Bibliography


Background of ResilienceNet

In late 1997, ASSIST INTERNATIONAL, INC., (ASSIST) in Arlington, Virginia, and the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education (ERIC/EECE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign began discussing a project to create a "meta-Web site" of resources and information about the resilience of children and families. ASSIST had been interested in resilience as a result of the research done by one of its members in the International Resilience Project. ERIC/EECE, which gathers and disseminates information in the field of early childhood education, had been interested in resilience as an important topic in that field.

The usefulness that such a Web site would have was apparent from the growing importance of the concept of resilience in education, psychology, and related fields. The concept began to emerge in the psychological literature in the 1970s. Since then, it has become a mainstream concept in the professional literature of several fields. This fact is indicated by the number of citations that involve resilience in databases such as PsychLit (379), PsychInfo (290), ERIC (484), and MEDLINE (41,875).

The fact that many international organizations had begun directing efforts to programs that support the resilience of children and families was another indication of the increased importance of the concept of resilience. These organizations include:

  • National Center for Health Services, which made a 5-year commitment to explore the concept of resilience in programs for children and youth;
  • Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which has published manuals for service providers on the promotion of resilience;
  • Bernard van Leer Foundation of Amsterdam, which supports resilience programs in Latin America, has produced resilience-related publications, and supports conferences and workshops that address resilience-promoting efforts;
  • Latin American Development Bank, which supports resilience-promoting projects in Argentina;
  • International Catholic Child Bureau of Geneva, Switzerland, which publishes resilience-related materials; and
  • International Center for the Study of Resilience at the University of Lanus, Argentina, which incorporates resilience concepts into training programs for providers who work in rural Argentina.

The proposed Web site's potential usefulness was also apparent from the fact that many Web sites contained sections devoted to resilience-related concepts or programs, or included papers on resilience or related topics. The ResilienceNet Web site was conceived as a single place from which all these diverse sources could be reached. Furthermore, on all these other Web sites, the relevance of the information was not always clear and the quality not always assured. In developing the new Web site, a ResilienceNet Review Team, composed of experts on resilience, was established to review the quality of various resilience materials on the Internet. ResilienceNet would serve the function of an authoritative source, allowing those interested in the resilience of children and families to locate easily, in a single place, resources identified for their quality.

Having observed these trends, ASSIST and ERIC/EECE continued their collaboration, and in 1998, start-up funding to undertake this project was obtained from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization in Amsterdam that funds projects to improve children's lives. Besides providing the opportunity to better serve the education community, this funding was an exciting development for ERIC/EECE because it was the clearinghouse's first international funding. With this funding, by the autumn of 1998, the new ResilienceNet was publicly accessible. The Web site was "unveiled" in a session on "More Early Childhood Connections: The Internet and Early Childhood Educators" at the 1998 convention of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in Toronto. The Web site can be visited at:

The Web site does contain the features that were originally planned, that is, a virtual library of full-text resources on resilience, a section of Internet resources that are reviewed by the ResilienceNet panel, and other resources. Details about these features of the Web site are discussed in the "Internet Resources" section of this guide.

Definition of Resilience

ResilienceNet deals with the resilience of children and families in the face of adversities. Although ResilienceNet focuses on resilience in children, youth, and families, additional topics-especially as they impact on children, youth, and families-are addressed as well. These include the resilience of communities; resilience and life-long physical and mental health; resilience related to culture, ethnicity, and gender; and children and adults at risk.

We should note that the alternate term "resiliency" is also often used in the literature. In ResilienceNet and in this guide, "resilience" is the preferred term, but the alternate form will be seen in papers from other sources.

But whether one uses an "e" or a "y" to write the name for this concept, it is not sufficient to speak simply of resilience, because the concept of resilience is applicable in many fields. For example, there are workforce resilience, the resilience of metals, community resilience, computer network resiliency, and so forth. This proliferation of applications for the term "resilience" can make searching for relevant items on the Internet even more troublesome than such searching often is.

Not only are there a number of different types of resilience applicable to several fields of study, but even when the concept is narrowed to the resilience of children and families, there are many definitions-and, indeed, many good definitions. You will find these definitions in most of the papers included in this collection and in various sections of the Web sites linked from the ResilienceNet Web site. However, the definition of resilience that is used by ResilienceNet is the following:

Resilience is the human capacity and ability to face, overcome, be strengthened by, and even be transformed by experiences of adversity.

Papers and ERIC Digests in This Collection

The current print publication is derived from the efforts during the past 2 years by ASSIST and ERIC/EECE at gathering information and resources for the ResilienceNet Web site. The items in this publication include:

  • papers from the ResilienceNet Virtual Library;
  • papers originally published by organizations that perform work related to the promotion of resilience;
  • ERIC Digests on resilience-related topics; and
  • bibliographies on the resilience of children and families.

This compilation opens with A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children: Strengthening the Human Spirit by Edith H. Grotberg (originally published by the Bernard van Leer Foundation in 1995). The author notes that, given the state of our knowledge about resilience in children, this "guide" should not strictly be considered as a manual. It is a "work in progress," an early attempt to outline ways to promote resilience in children.

The Guide was developed based on the findings from the International Resilience Project, a multinational study that sought to discover what parents, caregivers, and children actually do that seems to promote resilience in children. The Guide is based on data submitted from 14 countries (among 30 countries participating in the investigation) between September 1993 and August 1994. The instruments used included hypothetical situations of adversity to which children and adults responded, a checklist of resilience-related statements, three standardized tests, and descriptions of actual experiences of respondents. A total of 589 children participated, along with their families and caregivers. The Introduction of the Guide briefly describes this research project. To learn more of the details and results of this study, please see the several other papers by Grotberg on the International Resilience Project that are included in the ResilienceNet Virtual Library (

Chapter 1 of the Guide asks, "Why bother with resilience?" It explains the role of resilience in children's well-being and identifies sources of resilience. Resilience-promoting factors in children's lives are divided into three categories, called "I HAVE," "I AM," and "I CAN" factors. These categories are drawn from the findings of the International Resilience Project. The first of these categories consists of the child's external supports, such as trusting relationships. The "I AM" category involves the child's own personal strengths, such as autonomy. Finally, the "I CAN" factors are composed of the child's social and interpersonal skills, such as the ability to communicate.

The remaining chapters of the paper follow an identical pattern, each chapter dealing with a particular age range. The chapters (1) outline typical tasks for the age group, (2) tell what parents and caregivers can do to promote resilience, (3) provide examples of resilience-promoting and resilience-hindering actions, and (4) give examples of hypothetical situations used in the International Resilience Project. In these examples, the text first gives the hypothetical situation, identifies the caregiver's goals and the child's needs in the situation, explains responses that do and do not foster resilience, and lists particular resilience factors, divided into the three categories, that are promoted by the responses. Among these chapters that constitute the bulk of the Guide, chapter 2 addresses the child from birth to age 3, chapter 3 addresses the child from age 4 to 7, and chapter 4 addresses the child from age 8 to 11.

The second paper in the collection was originally a monograph published by the North Central Regional Education Laboratory (NCREL) in 1994. Developing Resilience in Urban Youth, by Laura F. Winfield, reviews the research on risk and resilience to identify (1) typical traits of resilient children; (2) three characteristics of the process of fostering resilience (long-term and developmental, viewing children with strengths rather than deficits, nurturing protective processes); and (3) four protective processes that foster resilience (altering child's exposure to risk, reducing negative reaction following risk exposure, establishing self-esteem, providing opportunities).

The monograph next examines, based on a review of research, children's experiences during three critical transitions of their lives, that from home to elementary school, that from middle school to high school, and that from high school to college. The paper notes that school programs that successfully foster resilience among African-American youth do so by a critical re-examination of school culture, policy, and structures. Finally, the paper provides a list of promising strategies for fostering children's resilience in school.

In A Framework for Practice: Tapping Innate Resilience, the third paper collected in this publication, authors Bonnie Benard and Kathy Marshall state their belief that research on children's resilience offers practitioners a new paradigm for practice. This article, which originally appeared in the journal ResearchPractice, volume 5, number 1, published by the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) at the University of Minnesota in the spring of 1997, discusses the Framework for Tapping Resilience training program for staff who work with children. The first step in the program is to identify participants' beliefs and to address any beliefs inconsistent with the program. After all, the authors note, not everyone on the staff will necessarily believe that all people have the innate capacity for well-being. The next step involves understanding the conditions of empowerment, that is, the conditions that foster resilience. These are caring relationships, high expectations, and opportunities for participation and meaningful responsibility.

The final step is the development of strategies for fostering resilience, that is, bringing the three conditions into operation in each child's life. There is no recipe for doing this. It involves not only implementing educational best practices strategies, such as peer helping and cooperative learning, but also teachers' examination of their own attitudes about resilience and their individual relationships with the children they work with. Building a resilience-promoting climate in a school takes time-perhaps years-and, ideally, involves a commitment from the school district and from the key stakeholders in the school and the community.

The fourth paper is by Saundra Murray Nettles and Frances P. Robinson. Exploring the Dynamics of Resilience in an Elementary School (originally published by the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk [CRESPAR] at Johns Hopkins University, 1998) examines the processes of resilience in students at an urban public elementary school in Washington, DC. The first part of the article describes the environment of the school and the school's community. This particular school had a history of efforts at creating a supportive environment for students and of having high expectations for their success. The second part of the report outlines the three resilience-supporting strategies that are being used at the school: (1) implement activities to increase resilience, (2) assess paths to student resilience, and (3) increase faculty and parent awareness about resilience.

The paper's third section expands the researchers' original conceptual framework of the link between school improvement and increased student resilience, based on their study of this particular urban school. The framework is summarized in five propositions about school safety, students' perceived environment, students' meanings, students' investments of effort, and resilience outcomes. The fourth section reports on the students' academic achievement in this supportive environment, and the concluding section offers some thoughts on other schools' adaptation of a conceptual framework to support students' resilience.

Following the four papers just described, the current publication then reprints a set of four ERIC Digests on topics related to children's resilience. ERIC Digests are short reports (one sheet, front and back, in their original printed format) that serve as introductions to or summaries of current topics in education. Two of the Digests included here were published by ERIC/ EECE and one each by the ERIC Clearinghouses on Urban Education and Rural Education.

Fostering Resilience in Children by Bonnie Benard summarizes studies that provide evidence that youth with multiple and severe risks in their lives can develop into confident and competent adults. The Digest reports that research shows certain characteristics of family, school, and community environments may alter or even reverse expected negative outcomes and enable children to manifest resilience despite risk. These "protective factors" can be grouped into three major categories: (1) caring and supportive relationships, (2) positive and high expectations, and (3) opportunities for meaningful participation. This Digest is also available in Spanish and Chinese.

Turning It Around for All Youth: From Risk to Resilience, also by Bonnie Benard, describes how educators and schools can foster resilience in all youth. The Digest recounts the three "protective factors" discussed in the previous Digest (paragraph immediately above), and outlines school-level and classroom approaches to building resilience.

The third Digest in this collection, Cultivating Resilience: An Overview for Rural Educators and Parents by Mary Finley, interprets, for application in rural areas, the findings of research that suggests ways that schools and communities can protect children from the threats that confront individuals and families. The Digest lists the same key protective factors mentioned in the other Digests in this collection and suggests that, because of their comparatively greater social capital, rural communities may have a head start on developing local efforts to nurture resilience. Finally, the Digest recommends resources on resilience, mentoring, and service learning, both in the print literature and on the Internet. This Digest provides a good balance to the other papers in this collection, many of which focus on resilience in urban youth.

Violence and Young Children's Development by Lorraine B. Wallach, the last Digest in this collection, examines the developmental consequences for children who are the victims of or witnesses to family and community violence. The effects of violence on a baby's ability to trust, on a toddler's need to practice physical skills through play, on a preschooler's need to venture outside the family, and on the school-aged child's need to concentrate on school are all considered. The Digest discusses the sequelae of children's experience of violence, influences on children's ability to cope with violence, and actions that school and day care staff can take to help children deal with the consequences of violence. This Digest is also available in Spanish and Chinese.

Internet Resources

Following the Selected Readings, the guide discusses Internet resources on children's and families' resilience. This section highlights ResilienceNet, describing the resources in each section of that Web site. Following a description of the RESILIENCE-L electronic discussion list, the section features the Web sites of several institutions that perform research related to resilience and the Web sites of several programs in Latin America that seek to foster the resilience of children and families. The Internet section concludes with an annotated listing of other Web sites that address resilience-related topics.

Other Resources in This Guide

The guide then continues with two bibliographies on the resilience of children and families in the face of adversities. The bibliographies are divided into sections, based on the format of the publication being cited: (1) research and evaluative reports, (2) guides and teaching materials, (3) program and project descriptions, and (4) general and theoretical discussions and position papers.

The first of these bibliographies consists of reformatted citations from non-ERIC databases, including PsychLit, Sociological Abstracts, and MEDLINE. The second bibliography consists of citations from the ERIC database. Each of the four sections of this second bibliography is divided into two parts, one for ERIC Documents (ED numbers) and the other for ERIC Journal Articles (EJ numbers).

The guide concludes with an appendix of ERIC-related materials (instructions on how to obtain ERIC Documents and Journal Articles cited in the ERIC bibliography, information on the ERIC system, and information on ERIC/EECE).

Concluding Thoughts

Through the resources presented in this publication and through the expanding resources on the ResilienceNet Web site, ASSIST and ERIC/EECE hope to further encourage the growing trend of looking not at children's risks and failures, but at their strengths and triumphs.

Lee Burchinal

Bernard Cesarone
ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and
Early Childhood Education

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Resilience Guide: A Collection of Resources on Resilience in Children and Families

This publication was prepared with funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education.

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