“Resilience” refers to the brain’s ability to cope with traumatic experiences, both during childhood and later. It is the brain’s strongest bulwark against the impact of trauma, which can be caused by ACEs. Therefore, it is highly important to ensure that children experience this nurturing environment during their earliest years.

Aside from a strong ability to cope with the effects of traumatic incidents, signs that a person is emotionally resilient include:

  • Feeling you can overcome hardship and guide your own future
  • Feeling equipped to manage your behaviour and emotions
  • Being involved and feeling connected, for instance in a wider community

Source: https://www.coablog.org/home/2018/4/9/combating-the-effects-of-adverse-childhood-experiences

 

What helps a person build resilience?

Factors which significantly contribute towards resilience-building include:

  • Secure attachment in infancy
  • Having one or more stable adult-child relationship
  • Unconditional love and acceptance from at least one person
  • Secure, loving and healthy relationships
  • Authoritative parenting which is calm, consistent and non-violent
  • Opportunities to exercise independence, make choices and learn from experience
  • Having parents who are emotionally resilient themselves

 

In a 2017 ACE study, researchers at Public Health Wales included questions about resilience factors, both during childhood and adulthood. The following factors were included for the child and youth resilience measure:

  1. I had people I looked up to
  2. Getting an education was important to me
  3. My parents/caregivers knew a lot about me
  4. I tried to finish activities that I started
  5. I was able to solve problems without harming myself or others (e.g. without using drugs or being violent)
  6. I knew where to go in my community to get help
  7. I felt I belonged in my school
  8. My family would stand by me during difficult times
  9. My friends would stand by me during difficult times
  10. I was treated fairly in my community
  11. I had opportunities to develop skills to help me succeed in life (like job skills and skills to care for others)
  12. I enjoyed my community’s cultures and traditions

 

And the following for the adult resilience measure:

  1. I have people I can respect in my life
  2. Getting and improving qualifications or skills is important to me
  3. My family know a lot about me
  4. I try to finish what I start
  5. I can solve problems without harming myself or others (e.g. without using drugs or being violent)
  6. I know where to get help in my community
  7. I feel I belong in my community
  8. My family stand by me during difficult times
  9. My friends stand by me during difficult times
  10. I am treated fairly in my community
  11. I have opportunities to apply my abilities in life (like skills, a job, caring for others)
  12. I enjoy my community’s cultures and traditions

How important is resilience?

To illustrate the importance of resilience, the aforementioned study measured the number of ACEs and resilience factors among a sample of 2,500 people. For those who scored 4 or more separate ACEs, 39% of those who were considered to have low childhood resilience reported having ever felt suicidal or self-harmed. By comparison, only 17% of those with 4 or more ACEs who had high childhood resilience answered the same.

WAVE recommends that:

  • Knowledge about resilience and factors which contribute towards it should be included in all efforts to spread knowledge about ACEs and trauma-informed approaches
  • As well as trauma-informed programmes and initiatives, local authorities and efforts to create trauma-informed communities should also include initiatives that boost resilience, predominantly in children but also in adults. These could be incorporated into the aforementioned trauma-informed programmes.