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      Beyond Risk and Protective Factors: An Adaptation-Based Approach to Resilience

      , , ,
      Perspectives on Psychological Science
      SAGE Publications

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          Abstract

          How does repeated or chronic childhood adversity shape social and cognitive abilities? According to the prevailing deficit model, children from high-stress backgrounds are at risk for impairments in learning and behavior, and the intervention goal is to prevent, reduce, or repair the damage. Missing from this deficit approach is an attempt to leverage the unique strengths and abilities that develop in response to high-stress environments. Evolutionary-developmental models emphasize the coherent, functional changes that occur in response to stress over the life course. Research in birds, rodents, and humans suggests that developmental exposures to stress can improve forms of attention, perception, learning, memory, and problem solving that are ecologically relevant in harsh-unpredictable environments (as per the specialization hypothesis). Many of these skills and abilities, moreover, are primarily manifest in currently stressful contexts where they would provide the greatest fitness-relevant advantages (as per the sensitization hypothesis). This perspective supports an alternative adaptation-based approach to resilience that converges on a central question: "What are the attention, learning, memory, problem-solving, and decision-making strategies that are enhanced through exposures to childhood adversity?" At an applied level, this approach focuses on how we can work with, rather than against, these strengths to promote success in education, employment, and civic life.

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            Ordinary magic. Resilience processes in development.

            The study of resilience in development has overturned many negative assumptions and deficit-focused models about children growing up under the threat of disadvantage and adversity. The most surprising conclusion emerging from studies of these children is the ordinariness of resilience. An examination of converging findings from variable-focused and person-focused investigations of these phenomena suggests that resilience is common and that it usually arises from the normative functions of human adaptational systems, with the greatest threats to human development being those that compromise these protective systems. The conclusion that resilience is made of ordinary rather than extraordinary processes offers a more positive outlook on human development and adaptation, as well as direction for policy and practice aimed at enhancing the development of children at risk for problems and psychopathology.
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              Stress and the individual. Mechanisms leading to disease.

              This article presents a new formulation of the relationship between stress and the processes leading to disease. It emphasizes the hidden cost of chronic stress to the body over long time periods, which act as a predisposing factor for the effects of acute, stressful life events. It also presents a model showing how individual differences in the susceptibility to stress are tied to individual behavioral responses to environmental challenges that are coupled to physiologic and pathophysiologic responses. Published original articles from human and animal studies and selected reviews. Literature was surveyed using MEDLINE. Independent extraction and cross-referencing by us. Stress is frequently seen as a significant contributor to disease, and clinical evidence is mounting for specific effects of stress on immune and cardiovascular systems. Yet, until recently, aspects of stress that precipitate disease have been obscure. The concept of homeostasis has failed to help us understand the hidden toll of chronic stress on the body. Rather than maintaining constancy, the physiologic systems within the body fluctuate to meet demands from external forces, a state termed allostasis. In this article, we extend the concept of allostasis over the dimension of time and we define allostatic load as the cost of chronic exposure to fluctuating or heightened neural or neuroendocrine response resulting from repeated or chronic environmental challenge that an individual reacts to as being particularly stressful. This new formulation emphasizes the cascading relationships, beginning early in life, between environmental factors and genetic predispositions that lead to large individual differences in susceptibility to stress and, in some cases, to disease. There are now empirical studies based on this formulation, as well as new insights into mechanisms involving specific changes in neural, neuroendocrine, and immune systems. The practical implications of this formulation for clinical practice and further research are discussed.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Perspectives on Psychological Science
                Perspect Psychol Sci
                SAGE Publications
                1745-6916
                1745-6924
                July 03 2017
                July 06 2017
                : 12
                : 4
                : 561-587
                Article
                10.1177/1745691617693054
                28679332
                079b06bb-fc59-497b-b6ba-2e25f2a80970
                © 2017

                http://journals.sagepub.com/page/policies/text-and-data-mining-license


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