Conceptual issues in studies of resilience: Past, present, and future research

Suniya S. Luthar, Jeanette A. Sawyer, Pamela J. Brown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

221 Scopus citations


We begin this article by considering the following critical conceptual issues in research on resilience: (1) distinctions between protective, promotive, and vulnerability factors; (2) the need to unpack underlying processes; (3) the benefits of within-group experimental designs; and (4) the advantages and potential pitfalls of an overwhelming scientific focus on biological and genetic factors (to the relative exclusion of familial and contextual ones). The next section of the article is focused on guidelines for the selection of vulnerability and protective processes in future research. From a basic science standpoint, it is useful and appropriate to investigate all types of processes that might significantly affect adjustment among at-risk individuals. If the research is fundamentally applied in nature, however, it would be most expedient to focus on risk modifiers that have high potential to alter individuals' overall life circumstances. The final section of this article considers conceptual differences between contemporary resilience research on children versus adults. Issues include differences in the types and breadth of outcomes (e.g., the tendencies to focus on others' ratings of competence among children and on self-reports of well-being among adults respectively).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationResilience in Children
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Inc.
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)1573316431, 9781573316439
StatePublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
ISSN (Print)0077-8923
ISSN (Electronic)1749-6632


  • Interventions
  • Protective processes
  • Resilience
  • Risk modifiers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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