Resiliency Factors

What is Resilience?

Most commonly, the term resilience has come to mean an individual’s ability to overcome adversity and continue his or her normal development.   However, the RRC  (Resilience Research Centre) uses a more ecological and culturally sensitive definition.  Dr Michael Ungar, Principal Investigator with the RRC, has suggested that resilience is better understood as follows:

“In the context of exposure to significant adversity, resilience is both the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical resources that sustain their well-being, and their capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided in culturally meaningful ways.”

This definition shifts our understanding of resilience from an individual concept, popular with western-trained researchers and human services providers, to a more culturally embedded understanding of well-being.  Understood this way, resilience is a social construct that identifies both processes and outcomes associated with what people themselves term well-being.  it makes explicit that resilience is more likely to occur when we provide the services, supports and health resources that make it more likely for every child to do well in ways that are meaningful to his or her family and community.

A Multidimensional Model of Resilience

There are many factors associated with resilience.  Some of the more common aspects of successful navigation and negotiation for well-being under stress include the following:

  • assertiveness
  • ability to solve problems
  • self-efficacy
  • ability to live with uncertainty
  • self-awareness
  • a positive outlook
  • empathy for others
  • having goals and aspirations
  • ability to maintain a balance between independence and dependence on others
  • appropriate use of or abstinence from substances like alcohol and drugs
  • a sense of humour
  • a sense of duty (to others or self, depending on the culture)

Relationships Factors

  • parenting that meets the child’s needs
  • appropriate emotional expression and parental monitoring within the family
  • social competence
  • the presence of a positive mentor and role models
  • meaningful relationships with others at school, home, and perceived social support
  • peer group acceptance

Community Factors

  • opportunities for age-appropriate work
  • avoidance of exposure to violence in one’s family, community, and with peers
  • government provision for children’s safety, recreation, housing, and jobs when they are at the appropriate age to work
  • meaningful rights of passage with an appropriate amount of risk
  • tolerance of high-risk and problem behavior
  • safety and security
  • perceived social equity
  • access to school and education, information, and learning resources

Cultural Factors

  • affiliation with a religious organization
  • tolerance for different ideologies and beliefs
  • adequate management of cultural dislocation and a change or shift in values
  • self-betterment
  • having a life philosophy
  • cultural and/or spiritual identification
  • being culturally grounded by knowing where you come from and being part of a cultural tradition that is expressed through daily activities

Physical Ecology Factors

  • access to a healthy environment
  • security in one’s community
  • access to recreational spaces
  • sustainable resources
  • ecological diversity (for more on this, see and our publications)

Source: Resilience Research Centre,  School of Social Work, Dalhousie University