Resilience: Definitions, Ambiguities, and Applications

  • Rebecca S. Allen
  • Philip P. Haley
  • Grant M. Harris
  • Stevie N. Fowler
  • Roopwinder Pruthi


Resilience has been defined as a dynamic process of maintaining positive adaptation and effective coping strategies in the face of adversity (Luthar et al. 2000). Although most scholars and members of the general public have an intuitive understanding of resilience, ambiguities in definition, measurement, and application contribute to scientific criticism regarding the usefulness of resilience as a theoretical construct (Kaplan 1999; Tolan 1996). Previous reviews have addressed ambiguities and limitations of the research literature with a focus on children and adolescents facing adversity (Luthar et al. 2000). These authors call for greater research attention on resilience at different points in human development. This chapter focuses on the definition, ambiguity, and application of the construct of resilience across the adult lifespan as it relates to successful aging (see Chap. 2). Other chapters throughout this book focus on various domains of resilience including genetic, physical, and personality (see Chaps. 3 and 6), emotional (see Chap. 5), creative (see Chap. 7), and spiritual (see Chap. 11). Our goal in this initial chapter is to describe and define resilience as it relates to older adults and to operationalize this construct across various domains. In so doing, we expand the critical review provided by Luthar et al. (2000) to adult development and aging. Additionally, we address three controversies evident in our review of the literature on the construct of resilience within adult development and aging.


Coping Strategy Positive Emotion Religious Coping Successful Aging Coping Process 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca S. Allen
    • 1
  • Philip P. Haley
  • Grant M. Harris
  • Stevie N. Fowler
  • Roopwinder Pruthi
  1. 1.The University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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