Searching for resilience among African-American youth exposed to community violence: theoretical issues

J Adolesc Health. 1996 Apr;18(4):254-62. doi: 10.1016/1054-139X(95)00230-P.


Purpose: The exploration of resilience factors which may moderate the impact of violence exposure on African-American youth living in high-crime neighborhoods has received scant research attention. Yet, how these adolescents appraise and cope with exposures to violent events has implications for social adaptation and resilience. This article attempts to organize diverse literatures and cross-disciplinary perspectives into an integrative framework for the study of resilience among African-American youth exposed to violence.

Methods: The search for protective factors requires critical examination of both the ethnocentric bias in traditional developmental frameworks and the decontextualization of sociocultural and environmental influences on adaptation. A paradigmatic refocusing is necessary, one which highlights the capacities for coping and adaptation resulting from the engagement of personal resources, family strengths, and community support systems.

Results: To facilitate this research, an appraisal and coping model of violence is presented. This model emphasizes the need to identify and assess the appraisal processes and coping strategies initiated by African-American families as they attempt to thrive amidst community violence.

Conclusions: Protective factors, operative at different junctures and within different ecologies, may reduce the likelihood of maladaptation or promote social competence in African-American youth exposed to violence. This search for resilience must address the meaning of competence and mechanisms of familial and external support that are salient within the African-American community.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Bias
  • Family / psychology
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Research
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Environment
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology*
  • Violence / ethnology*