By Rhonda J. Armistead
In this month's Communiqué, we're introducing the Resilience Builders project that will be part of School Psychology Awareness Week, November 12–16. It's intended to increase public awareness of the factors related to resilience in children and recognize individuals in our schools who contribute to that resilience.
Now, some may regard the resilience construct as a little "soft" with regard to its scientific evidence base. Early studies of at-risk populations suggested important correlates or factors that were associated with later resilience, but the processes for how resilience was developed were not made clear. For this reason, a second phase of research on resilience focused on the role of systemic processes such as biological, social, and cultural contexts that might account for resilience. While these investigations continue, a third phase of research on resilience intervention is starting to emerge. Intervening to actually increase resilience would be an obvious application of research to practice and policy. While it is still unclear, evidence is encouraging that the recognized elements of resilience can be strengthened to produce a more resilient individual—one with positive, healthy outcomes. Interventions that address prominent components of resilience such as positive and caring relationships are correlated with positive outcomes. It seems reasonable that they should be helpful but research findings are only beginning to provide clear direction for interventionists (Wright and Masten, 2006).
Many scholars define resilience only within the context of stressful life events (Rutter, 1990; Losel, Bliesener, & Koferi, 1989). Others, however, have proposed the concept of a resilient mindset — a stress inoculation or stress hardiness approach to understanding resilience (Goldstein and Brooks, 2006). The literature on resilience is beginning to develop a consensus on the resilience variables that exist within each child, the family, and other important community environments. These resilience factors seem to interact to offset the negative effects of adversity, thereby increasing the probability of positive outcomes rather than dysfunction.
The resilience research findings are far from complete, but emphasis on the protective factors that schools and school psychologists can influence seems worthy of our study and our promotion. This inspired me to choose resilience as the presidential theme for the NASP 2008 New Orleans convention and as the focus for School Psychology Awareness Week. During the year, I would like to communicate and promote the importance of protective factors among educators, parents, and our profession. Instead of focusing so much on the risk factors and pessimism that often pervades school house conversations, school psychologists can play a key role in communicating the positive, hopeful message that there is much we can do to inoculate at-risk students from the harmful effects of chronic adversity, stressful environments, and personal predispositions. Schools are unique settings for fostering resilience because kids often spend as much time with teachers and other adults at school as they do at home. So, starting this month, NASP will promote the concept of "Resilience Builders" by recognizing individuals who create protective factors for children and youth. We are looking for individuals in schools—including teachers, principals, counselors, other school psychologists, nurses, mentors, secretaries, parents, or anyone else—who are contributing to resilience in children and youth.
Generally, the criteria we will use to recognize Resilience Builders are:
- Development of caring and nurturing relationships with students
- Development of academic competence
- Development of social and emotional/ behavioral competence
- Development of positive peer relationships
- Creation of a caring, connected school community
- Promotion of physical health and wellbeing
There are many individuals in schools who make these daily contributions to building resilience yet receive no recognition or appreciation. During the coming months, NASP members will have the opportunity to recognize others by downloading customized certificates and presenting them personally to those whom we are calling Resilience Builders. In addition, the NASP website will have cover letters and press releases for sending to administrators, supervisors, and newspapers to publicize this collective effort. We also want to post the names of Resilience Builders on the NASP website, especially during School Psychology Awareness Week. Please join your colleagues across the country in this effort to increase awareness about resilience in children and recognize those in our schools who contribute to it.
Goldstein, S., & Brooks, R. (2006). Why study resilience? In S. Goldstein & R. B. Brooks (Eds.), The handbook of resilience in children (pp. 3–15). New York: Springer.
Losel, F., Bliesener, T., & Koferi, P. (1989). On the concept of invulnerability: Evaluation and first results of the Bielefeld project. In M. Brambring, F. Losel. & H. Skowronek (Eds.), Children at risk: Assessment, longitudinal research, and intervention (pp. 186–219). New York: Walter de Gruyter.
Rutter, M. (1990). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. In J. Rolf, A. S. Masten, D. Cicchetti, K. H. Nuechterlein, & S. Weintraub (Eds.), Risk and protective factors in the development of psychopathology (pp. 181–214). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wright, M., & Masten, A. (2006). Resilient processes in development. In S. Goldstein and R. Brooks (Eds), The handbook of resilience in children (pp.17–38). New York: Springer.