• By Kevin Mount
  • Posted on Wednesday 22nd August, 2007

UK philanthropy to support new research into resilience

One of the UK's major philanthropic investors is inviting proposals for a new research program to examine how resilience operates in children’s lives. Promoted by one of its trustees, Professor Michael Rutter, the investment by The Nuffield Foundation, reflects recent breakthroughs in understanding of resilience as a concept and deepening interest in its relationship with preventative services.The dominant models in current prevention science are represented by public health – with the goal of shifting outcomes for the average child, and by an interest in risk and protective factors – with the goal of reducing impairments to health and development.But there is persuasive evidence of a significant variation in how individual children respond to nearly every environmental hazard. So, to take child maltreatment as an example, while it is considered to be universally undesirable, the health and development of many who experience it will not be impeded.Differences in the ways risk and protective factors combine and interact can explain some of the variation in outcomes. But, as the Nuffield call for proposals explains, by no means all.Resilience research will differ from previous risk and protective factors analysis because it begins with an acknowledgment that the same pattern can produce different outcomes for children.Whereas studies of risk and protective factors start with variables, resilience research looks at mechanisms, such as coping styles, how problems are processed, children's thought processes, neuro-endocrine functioning and parenting strategies.A third distinction is that resilience research opens up new avenues for prevention. Children's services may struggle to reduce known risks such as ‘low-warmth’ parenting, but helping children faced with these problems to manage them more effectively may prove an effective alternative.The Nuffield Foundation initiative is designed to support studies that collect evidence on the strength of mechanisms, not just their presence or absence. And since the timing of the interaction between risks and resilience is thought to be important, the preference will be for longitudinal studies, and for investigations that involve a re-analysis of existing cohorts.The Nuffield Committee says areas of interest might include child abuse, child neglect, exposure to family or community violence, an institutional upbringing and so on. It is particularly keen to fund work that compares two or more possibly mediating mechanisms.Outline proposals are wanted for early October 2007, with final decisions about successful applicants expected early in 2008.referencesHauser, S., Allen, J., & Golden, E. (2006) Out of the Woods: Tales of Resilient Teens Cambridge Mass, Harvard University PressLaub, J. & Sampson, R. (2003) Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70 Cambridge Mass, Harvard University PressRutter, M. (2006) 'Implications of resilience concepts for scientific understanding, Annals of the New York Academy of Science 1094, 1-12Rutter, M. (2007) 'Resilience, competence and coping', Child Abuse and Neglect, 31, 3, 205-2

Back to Archives