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Psychological resilience: a review and critique of definitions, concepts and theory

journal contribution
posted on 2016-10-06, 11:31 authored by David FletcherDavid Fletcher, Mustafa Sarkar
The purpose of this paper is to review and critique the variety of definitions, concepts, and theories of psychological resilience. To this end, the narrative is divided into three main sections. The first considers how resilience has been defined in the psychology research literature. Despite the construct being operationalized in a variety of ways, most definitions are based around two core concepts: adversity and positive adaptation. A substantial body of evidence suggests that resilience is required in response to different adversities, ranging from ongoing daily hassles to major life events, and that positive adaptation must be conceptually appropriate to the adversity examined in terms of the domains assessed and the stringency of criteria used. The second section examines the conceptualization of resilience as either a trait or a process, and explores how it is distinct from a number of related terms. Resilience is conceptualized as the interactive influence of psychological characteristics within the context of the stress process. The final section reviews the theories of resilience and critically examines one theory in particular that is commonly cited in the resilience literature. Future theories in this area should take into account the multiple demands individuals encounter, the meta-cognitive and -emotive processes that affect the resilience-stress relationship, and the conceptual distinction between resilience and coping. The review concludes with implications for policy, practice, and research including the need to carefully manage individuals’ immediate environment, and to develop the protective and promotive factors that individuals can proactively use to build resilience.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

European Psychologist




12 - 23


FLETCHER, D. and SARKAR, M., 2013. Psychological resilience: a review and critique of definitions, concepts and theory. European Psychologist, 18 (1), pp.12-23.


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  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This article does not exactly replicate the final version published in the journal "European Psychologist". It is not a copy of the original published article and is not suitable for citation.






  • en