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Family Resilience Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Theory and Evidence

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Part of the Emerging Issues in Family and Individual Resilience book series (EIIFR)

Abstract

Family resilience raises the question of how family units adapt to external shocks. One notable form of such shocks are disasters. Research shows that disasters are occurring with greater frequency and severity throughout the world. Natural and human-made hazards pose an ongoing threat to positive family functioning everywhere, making it difficult to ignore the importance of disaster resilience for research and practice concerning family wellbeing. In this chapter, we examine the issue of family resilience in the context of disaster. We begin by articulating what is meant by hazards and disasters and how that links to family resilience. In doing so, we stress the importance of adaptive capacity and trajectories over time. We then provide an illustration of ongoing research related to the Resilient Children, Youth, and Communities (RCYC) project, a joint venture between researchers at Louisiana State University (LSU) and Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP), concerning family resilience in the context of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We close by outlining considerations for research, policy, and practice.

Keywords

  • Adaptive capacity
  • Disaster
  • Hazard
  • Oil spill
  • Resilience

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There is also growing recognition that many disasters can be conceptualized as “natech”—with combined natural and technological disaster elements. Picou (2011) points to the storm effects and infrastructural failures (in particular, petrochemical releases) related to Hurricane Katrina as a notable example.

  2. 2.

    Some reject referring to events like these as “spills”—or even to characterizing many disasters as “technological” per se—arguing that the terms minimize the scope and complexity of such disasters. For example, Perrow (1984) posited that accidents of this type were inevitable in highly complex and tightly coupled systems characterized by catastrophic risk, and that to identify the source as a mere failure of technology is misguided. See also Beck (1992).

  3. 3.

    For a more detailed account of this work, see Abramson et al. (2013).

  4. 4.

    This resource can be accessed at https://rcrctoolbox.org.

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Acknowledgement

We thank all those who participated in the Resilient Children, Youth, and Communities (RCYC) Study. This research was made possible by grants from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). Data funded by GoMRI are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org (https://doi.org/10.7266/n7-hjz4-w930. https://doi.org/10.7266/n7-nv37-sm89).

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Correspondence to Tim Slack .

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Questions for Thought and Discussion

Questions for Thought and Discussion

  1. 1.

    Why is it suggested researchers conceptualize disasters as processes rather than single-point-in-time events?

  2. 2.

    What does it mean to frame research and practice on family resilience in terms of adaptive capacity and trajectories over time?

  3. 3.

    Family resilience can be thought of as an outcome or a process. Can you generate conceptual models that do each? What sorts of measures might matter in doing so?

  4. 4.

    Why are transdisciplinary, convergent, and longitudinal research approaches advocated here?

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Slack, T., Beedasy, J., Chandler, T., Keating, K.S., Sury, J., Brooks, J. (2021). Family Resilience Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Theory and Evidence. In: Stout, M., Harrist, A.W. (eds) Building Community and Family Resilience. Emerging Issues in Family and Individual Resilience. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-49799-6_3

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