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· The concept of family resilience extends our understanding of healthy family functioning to situations of adversity.
· Although some families are shattered by crisis or chronic stresses, many others emerge strengthened and more resourceful.
· The ability to withstand and rebound from disruptive life challenges
· Enables individuals and families to respond successfully to crises and persistent challenges and to recover and grow from those experiences (Cowan, Cowan, & Schultz, 1996).
· Involves key processes over time that foster the ability to "struggle well," surmount obstacles, and go on to live and love fully.
The Relational Context of Individual Resilience
· Most research to date has focused on individual resilience
· In the 1980s, increasing evidence was found that the same adversity may result in different outcomes, which challenged the prevailing deterministic assumption that traumatic experiences, especially in childhood, are inevitably damaging.
· Rutter (1987) noted that no combination of risk factors, regardless of severity, gave rise to disorder in more than half the children exposed.
· To account for these differences, early studies focused on personal traits for resilience, or hardiness, reflecting the dominant cultural ethos of the "rugged individual" (Luthar & Ziegler, 1991; Walsh, 1996).
· Initially, resilience was viewed as innate, as in the character armor of "the invulnerable child," who was thought to be impervious to stress (Anthony & Cohler, 1987).
· Researchers moved toward recognition of an interaction between nature and nurture in the emergence of resilience, yet tended to hold a pessimistic, narrow view of family influence.
· Most studies focused on individuals who thrived despite a parent's mental illness or maltreatment (Wolin & Wolin, 1993) and tended to dismiss the family as hopelessly dysfunctional and to seek positive extra familial resources to counter the negative impact. Thus, families were seen to contribute to risk, but not to resilience.
· As research was extended to a wide range of adverse conditions, such as growing up in impoverished circumstances, dealing with chronic medical illness, or recovering from catastrophic life events, trauma, and loss, resilience came to be viewed in terms of an interplay of multiple risk and protective processes over time, involving individual, family, and larger sociocultural influences (Garmezy, 1991; Masten, Best, & Garmezy, 1990; Patterson, 2002; Rutter, 1987).
Kauai Children Study
In a remarkable longitudina
· By age 18, about two thirds of the at-risk children had done as poorly as predicted, with early pregnancy, needs for mental health services, or trouble in school or with the law. However, one third of those at risk had developed into competent, caring, and confident young adults, with the capacity "to work well, play well, and love well,"
· Werner's research and other emerging studies of resilient individuals all remarked on the crucial influence of significant relationships with kin, intimate partners, and mentors, such as coaches or teachers, who supported their efforts, believed in their potential, and encouraged them to make the most of their lives.
A family resilience perspective recognizes
· This approach fundamentally alters the deficit-based lens from viewing troubled parents and families as damaged and beyond repair, to seeing them as challenged by life's adversities, with potential for fostering healing and growth in all members.
Advantages of a Family Resilience Framework
· By definition, it focuses on strengths under stress, in the midst of crisis and in overcoming adversity (Walsh, F., 2003c).
· Second, it is assumed that no single model fits all families or their situations. Functioning is assessed in context i.e., relative to each family's values, structure, resources, and life challenges.
· Third, processes for optimal functioning and the well-being of members are seen to vary over time, as challenges unfold and families evolve across the life-cycle.
· While no single model of family health fits all, a family resilience perspective is grounded in a deep conviction in the potential for family recovery and growth out of adversity.
What matters most in dealing with adversity are effective family processes, involving the quality of caring, committed relationships.
Key Processes in Family Resilience – Froma Walsh (2003)
Family resilience: A framework for clinical practice. Family Process, 42 (1), 1-19.
· The family resilience framework developed by Froma Walsh draws together findings from numerous studies, identifying and synthesizing key processes within three domains of family functioning:
1. Family belief systems
2. Organization patterns, and
3. Communication and Problem Solving processes (Walsh, 1998).
I. Belief Systems
· How a family views the crisis, suffering and the options available
· Belief systems help members make meaning of crisis situations; facilitate a hopeful, positive outlook; and offer transcendent or spiritual moorings.
1. Make Meaning of Adversity
· View resilience as relationally based vs. "rugged individual"
· Normalize, contextualize adversity and distress and see reactions as normal and understandable considering the circumstances
· Blame and shame is minimized
· Sense of coherence comes through seeing the crisis as meaningful, comprehensible, and a manageable challenge
· Causal/explanatory attributions: How could this happen? What can be done?
2. Positive Outlook
· Hope, optimistic bias; confidence in overcoming odds
· Positive illusions" sustain hope in dealing with adversity, such as a life-threatening illness (Taylor, S., 1989; Taylor, S., Kemeny, M., Reed, G., et al., 2000).
Unlike denial, there is awareness of a grim reality, such as a poor prognosis, and a choice to believe they can overcome the odds against them. For instance, when one family was told that their child had an illness with only a 10% rate of recovery, the parents reasoned, "Someone has to be in that 10%, so why not us? Let's do all we can to get there."
· Courage and en-courage-ment; affirm strengths and focus on potential in the midst of difficulty
· Active initiative and perseverance (Can-do spirit)
· Master the possible; accept what can't be changed; playing the hand that is dealt in the best way possible
3. Transcendence and Spirituality
· Provides a sense of larger values, purpose and meaning beyond ourselves
· Most families find strength, comfort, and guidance in adversity through connections with their cultural and religious traditions (Walsh, 1999b).
· Suffering, and often the injustice or senselessness of it, are ultimately spiritual issues (Wright et al., 1996).
· Spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation, and religious affiliation have all been found to be wellsprings for resilience (Werner & Smith, 1992).
In health crises, medica
· The paradox of resilience is that the worst of times can also bring out our best. A crisis can yield learning, transformation, and growth in unforeseen directions. It can be a wake-up call or epiphany, awakening family members to the importance of loved ones or sparking them to heal old wounds and reorder priorities for more meaningful relationships and life pursuits.
· Resilient individuals and families commonly emerge from shattering crises with a clearer moral compass and heightened sense of purpose in their lives, gaining compassion for the plight of others (Coles, 1997).
II. Organizational Patterns
· In family organization, resilience is bolstered by:
· 1. Flexible structure 2. Connectedness (cohesion), and 3. social and economic resources.
1. Flexibility – “Bouncing Forward”
· The ability to rebound from adversity is thought of as "bouncing back" to a preexisting shape or norm.
· However, in the aftermath of most major transitions and crisis events, families can't simply return to "normal" life as they knew it.
· A more apt metaphor for resilience might be "bouncing forward," changing to meet new challenges (Walsh, 2002b).
· Open to change: rebound, reorganize, adapt to fit new challenges
· Stability through disruption: continuity, dependability, follow-through
· Strong authoritative leadership: nurturance, protection, guidance
· Varied family forms: cooperative parenting/caregiving teams
· Couple/Co-parent relationship: equal partners
· Essential for effective family functioning (Olson et al, 1989; Beavers & Hampson, 1990).
· A crisis can shatter family cohesion if members are unable to turn to one another.
Resilience is strengthened by mutua
· Members need to respect each other's individual differences, separateness, and boundaries. They may have quite varied reactions to the same event
· Seek reconnection, reconciliation of wounded relationships
3. Social and Economic Resources
Kin and social networks are vital lifelines
in times of trouble, offering practical and emotiona
· Involvement in community groups and faith congregations
· The significance of role models and mentors for resilience of at-risk youth is well documented.
· A serious or chronic illness can drain a family's economic resources. Persistent unemployment or the loss of a breadwinner can be devastating.
Many studies find that financia
III. Communication/Problem Solving Processes
· Communication processes foster resilience by: 1. Bringing clarity to crisis situations 2. Encouraging open emotional expression, and 3. Fostering collaborative problem-solving.
· It must be kept in mind that cultural norms vary considerably in the sharing of sensitive information and expression of feelings.
· Clarity and congruence in messages facilitate effective family functioning (Epstein, Bishop, & Levin, 1978).
· Clarifying and sharing crucial information about crisis situations and future expectations, such as a medical prognosis, facilitate meaning-making, authentic relating, and informed decision making; whereas ambiguity or secrecy can block understanding, closeness, and mastery (Imber-Black, 1995).
· Shared acknowledgment of the reality and circumstances of a painful loss fosters healing; whereas denial and cover-up, especially in stigmatized circumstances such as suicide, can impede recovery and lead to estrangement (Walsh & McGoldrick, 1991).
· When acknowledgment and discussion of life-threatening situations are shut down, anxiety may be expressed in a child's symptoms.
· Commonly, well-intentioned families avoid painful or threatening topics, however, anxieties about the unspeakable can generate catastrophic fears.
2. Open Emotional Expression
· Open communication, supported by a climate of mutual trust, empathy, and tolerance for differences enables members to share a wide range of feelings
· Family members may be out of sync over time: one may continue to be quite upset as others feel ready to move on.
· Take responsibility for own feelings, behavior; avoid blaming
· Gender socialization leads to common differences in crisis situations, with men tending more to withdraw or become angry while women are more likely to express sorrow or anxiety.
· Masculine stereotypes of strength often constrain men from showing fear, vulnerability, or sadness, which are framed pejoratively as "losing control" and "falling apart."
· When strong emotions can't be shared with loved ones, it increases the risk of substance abuse, symptoms such as depression, self-destructive behaviors, and relational conflict or estrangement.
· Finding pleasure and moments of humor in the midst of pain can offer respite and lift spirits.
3. Collaborative Problem-solving
· Collaborative problem-solving and conflict management are essential for family resilience.
· Creative brainstorming and resourcefulness open new possibilities for overcoming adversity and for healing and growth out of tragedy.
· Shared decision-making and conflict resolution involve negotiation of differences with fairness and reciprocity over time, so that partners and family members accommodate to one another.
In bouncing forward, resilient families set
clear goals and priorities and take concrete steps toward achieving them. They
build on smal
· Finally, families become more resourceful when they are able to shift from a crisis-reactive mode to a proactive stance, striving toward a better future while also anticipating and preparing for future clouds on the horizon