Adversity is a feature of the life of every child. It can be present when a child is learning a new skill, on their first day of school, when they are negotiating conflicts and when their ambition exceeds their ability. For some children, such as those who have chronic medical conditions and disabilities, adversity is a predominant and pervasive feature of their day-to-day life. Some children demonstrate persistence in the face of adverse conditions, whereas others shy away from them. Whatever the source of adversity, the ability to cope with it is critical to a child’s development and to them experiencing a productive, successful and satisfying life.
Psychological strength, or resilience, is directly implicated in a child’s capacity to cope with adversity. Resilience represents that quality of the individual that enables them to persist in the face of challenges and recover from difficulty or hardship. Resilience strengthens a child and enables them to try new experiences, accept challenges, and cope with frustration and failure. Resilience sustains a child through hardship and supports the realisation of dreams and aspirations. As such, the promotion of resilience is a universal concern of all adults with a caring concern for children.
A child’s capacity to cope with adversity (i.e. their resilience) varies over time in association with biological, psychological and environmental influences, and the interaction of these.
Biological influences include the child’s temperament and their susceptibility to stress and anxiety. Psychological influences include the child’s capacity to develop and maintain constructive beliefs in conditions of adversity, including beliefs about personal worth and competence, expectations of social support and beliefs about the world in which they live. Environmental influences include the extent to which the environment satisfies the needs of the child, including the child’s need for love, acceptance, protection, safety, shelter and physical sustenance.