28 - Resilience Reconsidered: Conceptual Considerations, Empirical Findings, and Policy Implications  pp. 651-682


By Michael Rutter

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During the first half of the twentieth century, as part of the mental hygiene movement, extensive attention was paid to associations between children's experiences of stress and adversity and their development of various forms of psychopathology or mental disorder. Bowlby's (1951) WHO monograph emphasized the extent to which the important risk experiences included disturbed parent–child affectional relationships. Although not all of his postulates regarding “maternal deprivation” have proved valid, most have (Rutter, 1995a), and there is abundant evidence that disturbed parent–child relationships do indeed constitute an important risk factor for psychopathology (Rutter, 1995b). During the second half of the twentieth century, the investigations of risk experiences considerably broadened to include the disruptions of family life associated with parental mental disorder (Rutter, 1989); coercive patterns of family interaction and inadequate parental monitoring/supervision of children's activities (Patterson, 1982; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992); parental divorce (Chase-Lansdale & Hetherington, 1990; Emery & Forehand, 1994; Hetherington, 1997); and both acute and chronic stresses carrying long-term threat (Brown & Harris, 1978, 1989; Goodyer, 1990).

It has been a universal finding, however, in all studies of risk experiences, that there is enormous variation in children's responses. At one extreme, some children succumb with the development of persistent severe psychopathology. At the other extreme, some children seem to escape unscathed, and a few even appear to be strengthened by their adverse experiences. Even with the most severe stressors and adversities, it is unusual for more than half of the children to develop significant psychopathology (Rutter, 1979).