Resilience theory

Knowledge of protective factors and risk factors has been consolidated through research on resiliency over 40 years.1,2 Several retrospective studies have been implemented to understand why exposure to adversity does not necessarily result in negative outcomes for young people. Resilience theorists generally agree that the presence of one or more protective factors can reduce the effects of exposure to adversity. The more protective factors (or “assets”) available, the more resilient a young person will be.

However, it is important to note that resilience is not a stable construct. Levels of resilience may vary with context or situation, while assets may remain the same. There is general agreement that excessive and prolonged exposure to negative life events, dangerous settings and inadequate schooling are likely to undermine young people’s life chances despite their assets. Young people need continued exposure to positive experiences, settings and people as well as abundant opportunities to gain and refine their skills.

Peer-based programs increase protective factors and promote personal resilience for at risk youth through: access to positive role models; a safe space; knowledge of help services; opportunities to learn and develop skills; peer support/shared experiences; access to help services; and building a sense of attachment/belonging.


  1. Rutter, M. (1985). “Resilience in the face of adversity. Protective factors and resistance to psychiatric disorder.” Br J Psychiatry 147: 598-611.
  2. Resnick, M. (2000). “Protective Factors, Resiliency, and Healthy Youth Development, Philadelphia, Hanley & Belfus, Inc.” Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews Vol.II (No.1, February).