family had regained its pre-hurricane stability despite almost 5 years of enormously difficult economic and social hardships.
As a tale of resilience, “M”’s story reflects so many of the characteristics and attributes identified by researchers. Despite exposure to extreme adversity, “M”’s daughter maintained critical academic routines, was encouraged by her parents to develop her cognitive skills, was living in a supportive and nurturing household with a mother who actively promoted her daughter’s sense of self-efficacy and hope for the future (embodied by a tangible tool—the scrapbook—to reinforce the message). “M” herself was a woman who personified “hardiness” and whose personal outlook was dominated by her faith, good humor, and unshakable optimism. At a larger level, her daughter’s resilience was further bolstered by the sense of community offered by the mobile home park, by the stability of her mother’s workplace, and even by the policies that brought her family back to the Lower Ninth Ward to become actively engaged in the community’s redevelopment.
All of this leads to a central question: Is it possible to design policies, programs, and interventions to replicate such resilience? Is it feasible to identify the factors that promote such “resilient” outcomes among children and youth, either directly or indirectly, and then target interventions to enhance, activate, or facilitate these factors? Resilience is complex, operating at multiple intersecting levels that encompass individual biology, cognition, and psychology; family dynamics; communal and institutional support systems; and policy environments. This puzzle reflects a fundamental question that has been posed by Yehuda and colleagues (2006): “Are resilient people born, or made?”
In this white paper, we consider the current science and practice of resilience interventions for children and youth1 who are susceptible to disasters or who have been exposed to disasters. Starting from the central question introduced in the prologue above—is it possible to design evidence-based resilience interventions for children?—this paper reviews the ways in which resilience research has influenced resilience interventions, considers specific illustrations of these resilience practices, and examines the evidentiary base for these activities. Furthermore, we will place these disaster-related resilience interventions within a public health framework of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. Public
1In the interest of editorial brevity, throughout this white paper, we will mainly refer to children and youth, across the age spectrum of toddler to adolescent, as “children”