Uncertain Legacies: Resilience and Institutional Child Abuse - A Literature Review - Research Findings

This paper presents a summary the main findings of a review of literature to identify definitions of resilience and the factors which increase resilience in survivors of institutional child abuse.

Main Findings

  • The concept of resilience is seen as helpful in explaining why survival experiences might vary from individual to individual; however despite extensive research, there is no single, comprehensive definition of resilience.
  • The literature overwhelmingly saw resilience as a process (rather than a personality trait), which is dynamic; influenced by a range of outside factors; can fluctuate over an individual's lifetime; can vary from situation to situation; and is shaped by both personal circumstances and relationships with other people. It is helpful to see it as a journey, rather than a destination.
  • Factors such as personal characteristics and circumstances, interpersonal relationships and social exchanges, and social, political and economic environments, interact with one another to produce patterns of resilience in individuals.
  • There is a lack of research into the resilience of adult survivors of institutional abuse, including those who were abused in residential care settings.
  • Some aspects of institutional child abuse which occurs in a residential setting might affect the resilience of adult survivors of this form of child maltreatment, and these merit further investigation.
  • Disclosure of any form of abuse can often be difficult and challenging, and in the case of institutional child abuse, this has implications for the sort of support offered to survivors who take part in public inquiries and investigations.
  • A focus on enhancing an individual's resilience in the context of residential care generally is consistent with current policy approaches in child care - for example in the Getting it Right for Every Child strategy and in related areas, such as health - and also offers a useful framework for understanding the diverse reactions of adult survivors of institutional abuse who have already disclosed and those who may disclose in the future.


Email: Fiona Hodgkiss

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