Young People and Resiliency. Adolescence as a life stage and the development of resilience

Submitted Assignment, 2019

15 Pages, Grade: 76.00


Table of Contents


Background to Resiliency

Psychological Factors

Behavioural Factors

Socio-Cultural Factors




Life is full of transitions; and with each and every transition that occurs individuals may encounter unfavorable events which could potentially lead to traumas or excessive stress (Manning, 2014). One major transition that every individual experiences is the transition between childhood to becoming a young adult. Not all adolescents experience this transition in the same manner, yet the majority of young people refer to it as being a rather challenging period in their lives (San Antonio, 2004). In fact, researchers tend to refer to this transition as being a critical and difficult process for young people (Petersen, Kennedy & Sullivan, 1991; Mortimer & Larson, 2002). During the life stage of adolescence, young people go through several changes in their life particularly:

Emotional. This mainly involves a strong feeling of intense emotions like feeling overly sensitive and an increase in mood swings, as well as peer pressure; Psychological. Such important changes include the emergence of abstract thinking, absorbing viewpoints and an increase in sexual and aggressive drives; and lastly Physical. These are mainly changes associated to puberty, like changes in body shape, height, voice, growth of public, facial and body hair, among others (Casey et al., 2011; Anasuri, 2016).

It is also a period where young people want to gain autonomy from their parents in order to search for their own identity, however they are still not at the point of adulthood and so parental conflicts and tantrums tend to increase because to a certain extent they still depend on their parents (Gitterman & Shulman, 2005; Anasuri, 2016). Apart from these personal changes, young people might also be undergoing other external changes, like for instance adjusting to a new environment; experiencing financial problems; or facing problematic healthcare (Bowman, 2013).

All of these aforementioned changes could potentially leave young people feeling traumatized, since everything around them is changing and they have no idea what the outcome of such transformations are going to be (Petersen et al.,1991; San Antonio, 2004). For this reason, it is crucial that adolescents are equipped with the essential tools and skills in order to persevere, what is referred to as resilience (Anasuri, 2016), Background to Resiliency The term ‘resilience’ is not that easily defined as it tends to hold various meanings and connotations to different people, depending on the context that it is used in (Lee, Cheung, & Kwong, 2012; Zolli & Healy, 2012). Even still, a common understanding of the term revolves around the ability ofbeing able to overcome and manage successfully any stressful ortraumatic life experiences (Fergus & Zimmerman, 2005; Hauser, Allen, & Golden, 2006; Bonanno & Diminich, 2013; Greitens, 2015; Anasuri, 2016). In simple words, it is the capability of individuals to bounce back after a difficult period in life has occurred rather than letting this period defeat them (MacConville & Rae, 2012; Zolli & Healy, 2012; Riopel, 2019).

Resiliency is not something that is immutable or fixed within a human being, it is a process that arises from interactions between ‘risk’ and ‘protective factors’ (Coleman & Hagell, 2007; Anasuri, 2016). The former refers to the stressful or challenging life events that an adolescent may experience, such as poverty and family breakdowns, that are likely to increase the onset of problems occurred in their life. On the other hand, the latter allude the individual characteristics or external conditions, such as problem-solving skills and having a strong sense of independence, that act as dynamic mechanisms for young people in order to combat, or at least balance, the potential risks that they are exposed to (Lee et al., 2012; Anasuri, 2016). Adolescents’ stress usually comes from multiple dimensions, yet the most common stressful situations amongst them are related to relationships; schools; and the hormonal and physical changes they encounter (Murphey et al., 2013). Individuals are not born resilient but rather they learn how to become this way through a process over life (Riopel, 2019). Since resiliency only exists at the manifestation of unfavorable life events and is exhibited differently by everyone, adolescents may face situations where they act resilient, by contrast there might be other situations in which they do not (Zolli & Healy, 2012; Anasuri, 2016).

Nonetheless, one should note that resiliency is not entirely a positive thing all the time, as it may appear to be. Sometimes, it can also be regarded as something negative (Coleman & Hagell, 2007; Buckley 2010; Chamorro-Premuzic & Lusk, 2017; Warner, 2017). This is because if adolescents become too resilient, it can drive them to become excessively tenacious with unachievable goals or even make them tolerant towards adversity way too much, which can then lead to boredom and lack of motivation (Chamorro-Premuzic & Lusk, 2017; Pike, 2018). Besides this, some researchers seem to worry about the negative connotations that the concept of resilience could bring on those adolescents, or individuals in general, who do not manage to adapt to difficult situations. Adults could foster the ‘blame’ perspective on those adolescents that do not succeed in life; as such adults might think that there is something wrong with those adolescents who were unable to handle the life-stressors, when compared to their counterparts (Coleman & Hagell, 2007). Yet, this is not the case. These less fortunate adolescents have their own reasons for not being able to cope with difficult life events; one reason being, that they might lack some of the crucial personality characteristics that are needed to overcome such difficulties (Coleman & Hagell, 2007).

Despite this, the majority of researchers still seem to believe that resilience is more positive than negative. In order for young people to be able to transition successfully and healthily from one life stage to the other, a level of resiliency must be flourished (Anasuri, 2016). As a matter of fact, those adolescents who acquire the necessary skills to become resilient are at an advantage when compared to those who lack resiliency skills. This is because they are more likely able to handle the responsibilities and challenges faced in their adulthood (Murphey, Barry, & Vaughn, 2013). There are three main factors that have an impact on adolescent resiliency, these being psychological; behavioural; and socio-cultural factors.

Psychological Factors

Variables like for example maturity and identity, have a significant impact on young peoples’ resiliency. During the life stage of adolescence, young people continue to develop psychologically and cognitively, what is in simple terms referred to as brain development (Moshman, 2005; Kroger, 2017).

Indeed, one of the fundamental psychological changes that occurs in adolescents is that of identity development (Motti-Stefanidi, 2015). According to a number of researchers, there seems to be a connection between adolescent resiliency and identity (Moshman, 2005; Wilkinson, 2017). During such development, young peoples’ brain starts to develop in ways which helps them establish the important values and believes that they want to carry on in life, which are normally given to them by their primary caregivers (Edelman, Mandle, & Kudzma, 2014; Lewis, n.d.). Such values and believes help shape their identity. Those adolescents that manage to recognize who they are as individuals, hence build their own, unique identity, grow up to be motivated and confident young adults, since they feel secure as individuals. Consequently, being able to cope and handle life-stressors (Wilkinson, 2017). Additionally, these adolescents end up being better people in general, as they are the ones who tend to accomplish things in life (Kroger, 2017).

By contrast, those adolescents that do not manage to build their own identity seem to find themselves stuck at the role confusion stage ofErik Erikson’s theory (Erikson, 1994; Wilkinson, 2017). These young people are more likely to turn out disoriented and confused. Apart from that, such adolescents have higher chances of developing psychological dysfunction, which in turn could potentially cause mental health issues, like addictive behaviours; depression; extreme anxiousness; and eating disorders. As they enter the life stage of adulthood, those adolescents who lack identity find themselves feeling lost, which then leads to their lack of accomplishments since they do not know what it is that they want to achieve in life (Wilkinson, 2017).

In order to cultivate resiliency, it is crucial to promote a positive psychological development amongst adolescents (Lee et al., 2012; Dias & Cadime, 2017). According to Dias and Cadime (2017), the psychological factors commonly related to resiliency are determination; self-awareness; perseverance, and so on. In order for these factors to be positively developed in adolescents it is crucial that they have a good social support system that normally includes close friends, family members and partners, present in their life while they are undergoing such a critical and challenging period. Having a positive social support system acts as a protective factor against potential psychological risks, like for example the risk of developing a mental health issue, as discussed previously (Lee et al., 2012). Since young people tend to feel scared and lost while they are identifying who they are in terms of identity having good open relationships with other individuals, primarily one that involves the primary caregivers, help adolescents gain their independency while positively enhancing their psychological development (Murphey et al., 2013). On that note, young people who have parents, or grown-ups who care, actively involved in their life are more likely to become resilient adolescents (Hauser etal., 2006; Coleman & Hagell, 2007; Murphey etal.,2013; Dias & Cadime, 2017).

Furthermore, adolescents that have a positive social support system outside of their family, like for instance having a good relationship with teachers at school, have higher chances ofhaving a stable mental health when compared to those adolescents who do not. By having positive external relationships, young adults feel more socially expressive, more socially supported and have lower chances of developing a psychological issue, like depression (Murphey et al., 2013). All in all, a strong sense ofidentity helps young people become resilient, and resiliency helps young people build their identity.

Behavioural Factors

Other factors that play a significant role in adolescents’ resiliency are behavioural factors. As mentioned earlier, adolescents go through various changes while transitioning from childhood to adolescents. Yet, the changes that affect their day-to-day mood swings and behaviours are the hormonal changes, which are caused by puberty (Anasuri, 2006; Van Dijk, 2011).

When adolescents experience puberty their hormones start to transform. That being so, they might start to act impulsively rather than conscientiously. For this reason, adolescents start to think less about the consequences that their behaviour could have on their actions, which could then potentially lead to the engagement in risky behaviours, like unprotected sex; drugs; alcohol abuse; smoking; and reckless driving (Steinberg, 2007; Bjorklund & Blasi, 2011; Kloep, Hendry, Taylor, & Stuart-Hamilton, 2016). Some professionals in the area argue that risk-taking behaviours are an important component in the development stage of adolescence as it helps young people acquire their adult skills, identity and self-esteem. Oppositely, others argue that such behaviours are a threat to both the community in general and young people themselves, since the repercussions of such behaviours could lead to permanent health difficulties, like damage to the lungs or even lead to death (Coleman & Hendry, 1999; Ali, Dwyer, Vanner, & Lopez, 2010).

Previous literature shows that those young people who have developed a positive self­esteem and identity are less likely to have behavioural problems. This is because self-esteem acts as a protective factor against risky-behaviour since adolescents would generate thoughts about themselves as being important, successful, talented and worthy (Veselska et al., 2008). Most of the time, when adolescents are involved with these types ofbehaviours they are in the company of their friends. As discussed above, adolescents are at a stage where they want to gain autonomy and so they want to fit in with their peers. In order to establish a social position with their peers, young people have to show off their abilities and qualities to the group. Hence, this is where the risky behaviours come in. In order for young people to demonstrate these abilities and qualities they have to show off their risky behaviours so as to impress their peers, or else their friends might not want to hang out with them (Coleman & Hendry, 1999; Bjorklund & Blasi, 2011; Kloep et al., 2016). Thus, if adolescents have a positive self-esteem, they would not feel the need to impress their friends with risky behaviours as they would believe that who they are as individuals would be enough to be socially welcomed by their peers (Veselska et al., 2008). This all relates to how resilient the young person is (Karatas & Cakar, 2011).

Adolescents that have the right social support and care from grown-ups not only have lower chances of developing mental health difficulties, but are also more likely to resist the temptations of getting themselves involved with risk-taking behaviours because they have the right resiliency skills to overcome these difficulties (Fergus & Zimmerman, 2005; Karatas & Cakar, 2011). When parents praise young people for their behaviour they help them develop resiliency skills and also help them form a positive self-esteem (Fergus & Zimmerman, 2005). On the contrary, young people who lack the care and praise of grown-ups end up having low self-esteem and suffer from role identity confusion, as well as constantly having negative thoughts about life and feeling unworthy of friendship. They also have the tendency ofleading an unsuccessful life. These adolescents then are more at risk of adopting the habit of smoking, abusing drugs or developing other risk-taking behaviours because they lack the necessary resiliency skills (Coleman & Hendry, 1999; Veselska et al., 2008; Bjorklund & Blasi, 2011; Karatas & Cakar, 2011).

Socio-Cultural Factors

The last factors going to be discussed with regards to young people and resilience are socio-cultural factors. The term socio-cultural refers to aspects like the environment; religion; politics; technology; and so on, that characterize a society and in some way or another affectthe adolescents’ development (LaPoint, Butty, Danzy, & Small, 2015).

According to Southwick, Bonanno, Masten, Panther-Brick and Yehuda (2014), the best technique for an adolescent to gain resiliency skills is by being surrounded with a stable, loving and safe environment. Adolescents that lack such necessities within their environment have higher possibilities for lower-levels of resilience and are referred to as being ‘socially vulnerable young people’. In fact, several research in the field shows that those adolescents who are faced with socio-cultural factors in their life, like for example having an absent parent or lack of adequate resources in the household they are brought up in, not only have lower chances ofbecoming resilient, but are also at a higher risk of exposure of developing psychological damage (Wortham, 2014; Anasuri, 2016). As one can notice, all three abovementioned factors are interlinked as one impacts the other.

Let us take the following scenario as an example, where an adolescent who is fictitiously named Kevin, has both ofhis parents constantly away because of the type ofjob they have.


Excerpt out of 15 pages


Young People and Resiliency. Adolescence as a life stage and the development of resilience
University of Malta  (Department of Youth Studies)
B.A. (Hons) Social Wellbeing
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
young people, resiliency, adolescents
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Ms/ B.A Hons Kimberley Bartolo (Author), 2019, Young People and Resiliency. Adolescence as a life stage and the development of resilience, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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