Coping diversity: Guide

Dr Marlize Malan van Rooyen| View as single page | Feedback/Impact


Various definitions of resilience exist, of which most reflect the notion of being able to adapt successfully to some form of disturbance (Masten, 2014). However, the complexity of resilience calls for a more detailed description as provided by the socio-ecological view of resilience:

“Where there is potential for exposure to significant adversity, resilience is both the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to the psychological, social, cultural and physical resources that build and sustain their well-being, and their individual and collective capacity to negotiate for these resources to be provided and experienced in culturally meaningful ways” (Ungar, 2008, 225).

The socio-ecological definition of resilience highlights several important factors of resilience, including:

  • the presence of significant adversity
  • the presence of resources
  • action on individuals’ part, namely finding their way to resources (navigation) and using the resources that they ascribed culturally relevant meaning to (negotiation)
  • adapting to adversity in such a way that well-being is maintained
  • interaction between individuals and the environment

An example of a resilient learner will be someone who is able to perform scholastically well despite having a specific learning disorder in reading and writing. It is important to consider that resilience might not manifest in the same way across contexts as variables in individuals, among individuals and in environments are important considering factors in understanding resilience. For instance, in an indigenous (non-western) context, resilience might manifest as collective resilience which is defined as: “the result of accessing, mobilising, networking and nurturing sustained resources use for communal positive adaptation because of collectively appraise stressors” (Ebersöhn, 2013, p. 110).