Adverse life events and resilience

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1998 Nov;37(11):1191-200. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199811000-00020.


Objective: Adverse life events are well-documented risk factors of psychopathology and psychological dysfunction in children and adolescents. Youth with good adjustment despite high levels of adverse life events are considered resilient. This study identifies factors that characterize resilience.

Method: Household probability samples of youth aged 9 through 17 years at four sites were used. Main and interaction effects of 11 factors were examined to assess their impact on youth adjustment.

Results: Children at risk because of higher levels of adverse life events exhibited a greater degree of resilience when they had a higher IQ, better family functioning, closer parental monitoring, more adults in the household, and higher educational aspiration. The interaction between maternal psychopathology and adversity was significant, and the interaction between IQ and adversity approached significance.

Conclusion: Resilient youth received more guidance and supervision by their parents and lived in higher-functioning families. Other adults in the family probably complemented the parents in providing guidance and support to the youth and in enhancing youth adjustment. Higher educational aspirations might have provided high-risk youth with a sense of direction and hope. Although IQ had no impact in youth at low risk, youth at high risk who had a higher IQ might have coped better.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Statistics as Topic