A review of developmental research on resilience in maltreated children

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2013 Jul;14(3):222-34. doi: 10.1177/1524838013487808. Epub 2013 May 10.


Research demonstrates that child maltreatment can negatively impact the psychosocial functioning of individuals well beyond the point at which the trauma occurs. Fortunately, there is evidence that many children who are maltreated succeed in overcoming some of the possible consequences that can follow exposure to this particular form of adversity. Those who do are thought to be resilient. What it means to be resilient is an issue that researchers sometimes disagree on, as is reflected by the different definitions they apply to the term and the methods they use to study the phenomenon. In this literature review, we synthesize current findings on resilience and identify areas of congruence, as well as inconsistency in research methods across the reviewed studies. We focus the review exclusively on longitudinal studies to understand the dynamic qualities of resilience. Findings of the review suggest that, while studies appear to conceptualize and measure common domains of resilience (e.g., social, emotional, behavioral functioning), the measures themselves are in some cases notably different, limiting the extent to which results can be systemically compared across studies. The review also shows that few studies, although longitudinal by design, examine resilience over extended periods of development. Consequently, little has actually been learned about how patterns of resilience unfold and are sustained. Of those studies that do examine resilience as a developmental process, the rate of stability in resilience across time is notably low. Implications for future research are discussed.

Keywords: child maltreatment; literature review; longitudinal; resilience.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Behavioral Research / methods
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Development
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Time