Resilience Theory and Research on Children and Families: Past, Present, and Promise

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Origins and advances in the history of resilience science with children and families are highlighted in this article, with a focus on interconnections and integration. Individual and family resilience scholarship reflect interwoven roots, and there is a growing impetus to integrate knowledge and strategies to inform practice and policies to mitigate risk and promote resilience in systems that shape human adaptation over the life course. Resilience is defined as the capacity of a system to adapt successfully to significant challenges that threaten its function, viability, or development. Research evidence is summarized to illustrate parallels in concepts and findings from studies of child and family resilience, with special emphasis on parenting processes. Integrating models, findings, methods, and training across multiple systems and levels holds great promise for elucidating resilience processes that will inform efforts to build capacity for healthy adaptation in the face of rising threats to families and societies around the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-31
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Family Theory and Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Widespread adoption of developmental systems theory as a conceptual framework for understanding human development and adaptation at multiple levels has opened an exciting window for integrating resilience science and its applications to promote human well-being. Research is under way on the processes of interaction across systems levels that could afford resilience for individuals, families, and communities as they adapt to adversity. This work is supported by advances in methods of measuring multilevel processes and the dynamics of complex systems, ranging from epigenetic change to social media analyses. Methods for testing resilience models that involve cascades across systems, levels, and generations are emerging.


  • Adaptive systems
  • cascades
  • developmental systems theory
  • family resilience
  • family systems theory
  • pathways


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