Family Resilience

Family Resilience

You may like to check out my webinar on Family Resilience, or, The Resiliency Program.

What Is Family Resilience?

The concept of family resilience refers to the family as a functional system, impacted by highly stressful events and social contexts, and in turn, facilitating the positive adaptation of all members and strengthening the family unit.

Resilience entails more than managing stressful conditions, shouldering a burden, or surviving an ordeal. It involves the potential for personal and relational transformation and positive growth that can be forged out of adversity. Studies over recent decades find that couples and families, through suffering and struggle, often emerge stronger, more loving, and more resourceful in meet- ing future challenges. Although some families are more vulnerable or face more hardships than others, a family resilience perspective is grounded in a deep conviction in the potential of families to strengthen their resilience in overcoming their challenges.

Even those who have experienced severe trauma or very troubled relationships have the potential for healing and growth over the life course and across the generations.

A family systems orientation broadens attention from parent-child dyadic bonds to a broad relational network, identifying potential resources for individual resilience throughout the immediate and extended family. A resilience-oriented family assessment seeks to identify members who are – or could become – invested in the positive development at-risk children, believe in their potential, support their best efforts, and encourage them to make the most of their lives. Even in troubled families, positive contributions might be made by parents, step-parents, siblings, and other caregivers. Grandparents and godparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and informal kin can play a supportive role.

Key transactional processes enable the family to rally in highly stressful times: to take proactive steps, to buffer disruptions, to reduce the risk of dysfunction, and to support positive adaptation and resourcefulness in meeting future challenges.

Key Characteristics Of Family Resilience

Key characteristics of resilient households include organised and predictable routines, open and direct communication, and the capacity to adequately deal with negative and strong emotions,

Children become resilient when they learn to adapt to challenging demands with guidance from positive, competent adults. In describing resilient children, Ginsburg uses the seven critical C’s: competence; confidence; connection; character; contribution; coping; and control.

Further, he suggests seven ways that parents can build resilient children: love; let go; expect the best; listen; set a good example; encourage; and teach.

Key Processes In Family Resilience

Belief systems

Making meaning of adversity

• Relational view of resilience
• Normalize, contextualize distress
• Sense of coherence: view crisis as meaningful, comprehensible, manageable challenge • Facilitative appraisal: explanatory attributions; future expectations

Positive outlook

• Hope, optimistic bias; confidence in overcoming challenges
• Encouragement; affirm strengths, focus on potential
• Active initiative and perseverance (can-do spirit)
• Master the possible; accept what can’t be changed; tolerate uncertainty

Transcendence and spirituality

• Larger values, purpose
• Spirituality: faith, contemplative practices, community; connection with nature • Inspiration: envision possibilities, aspirations; creative expression; social action • Transformation: learning, change, and positive growth from adversity

Organisational processes


• Rebound, adaptive change to meet new challenges
• Reorganise, restabilise: continuity, dependability, predictability • Strong authoritative leadership: nurture, guide, protect
• Varied family forms: cooperative parenting/caregiving teams
• Couple/coparent relationship: mutual respect; equal partners


• Mutual support, teamwork, and commitment • Respect individual needs, differences
• Seek reconnection and repair grievances

Mobilise social and economic resources

• Recruit extended kin, social, and community supports; models and mentors • Build financial security; navigate stressful work/family challenges
• Transactions with larger systems: access institutional, structural supports

Communication/problem-solving processes


  • Clear, consistent messages, information
  • Clarify ambiguous situation; truth seeking

Open emotional sharing

  • Painful feelings: (sadness, suffering, anger, fear, disappointment, remorse)
  • Positive interactions: (love, appreciation, gratitude. humour, fun, respite).

Collaborative problem solving

  • Creative brainstorming; resourcefulness
  • Share decision-making; repair conflicts; negotiation, fairness
  • Focusing on goals; concrete steps; build on success; learn from setbacks • Proactive stance: preparedness, planning, prevention.


Family Resilience Assessment Scale

The 4-item family resilience scale

  1. “When your family faces problems, how often are you likely to do each of the following,” and the four items for the original and translated instrument are:
  2. “Talk together about what to do”
  3. “Work together to solve our problems”
  4. “Know we have strengths to draw on” “Stay hopeful even in difficult times.”

To calculate the total score for family resilience, each item is reverse-scored and averaged. Higher scores indicate a more resilient family, and vice versa.

Questions/Statements From Family Resilience Scales Used In The Research

These often are answered using a scale of how strongly you agree/disagree. Notice it’s not just about the family unit, but the community surrounding the family too.

  • We accept stressful events as a part of life.
  • We are able to work through pain and come to an understanding.
  • We can work through difficulties as a family.
  • We define problems positively to solve them.
  • We are adaptable to demands placed on us as a family.
  • We are open to new ways of doing things in our family.
  • We feel people in this community are willing to help in an emergency.
  • We feel secure living in this community.
  • We can be honest and direct with each other in our family.
  • We can talk about the way we communicate in our family.
  • We can compromise when problems come up.
  • We share responsibility in the family.

Learn more about family resilience, assessing it, and how to cultivate it by doing The Resiliency Program or check out my webinar on Family Resilience.

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