21 - Childhood resilience: adaptation, mastery, and attachment  pp. 307-322

Childhood resilience: adaptation, mastery, and attachment

By Angie Torres, Steven M. Southwick and Linda C. Mayes

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Introduction

Exposure to adversity, challenge, and day to day stress is an inevitable aspect of nearly every child’s development. For some children, these challenges are acute, uncontrollable, and immediately overwhelming. Others are exposed on a daily basis to chronic stressors such as poverty, parental psychopathology, and environmental chaos. Still others experience the stress of moving to a new school or a new home and grow adaptively from the experience. The ability to cope with, even grow in response to, novel or threatening situations is essential to healthy development and to survival.

The capacity to respond to and manage novelty and potential threat is based in brain circuits whose development is influenced by multiple experiences beginning in the first years of life. Experiences or environmental conditions that activate these circuits are considered stressors and, under optimal or usual conditions, the body’s response to such stressors promotes learning so that the child has developed a set of adaptive responses for subsequent exposures.

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