The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

A Roundtable Discussion of Resilience and Violence: Definitions, Measurement, and Data Analytic Strategies of Child Maltreatment, Community Violence Exposure, and Political Violence Research

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon B, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
Cluster: Mental Health
Elizabeth M. Sloan-Power, PhD, Rutgers University-Newark, Cindy Sousa, PhD, MSW, MPH, Bryn Mawr College, J. Bart Kilka, MSW, University of Washington and Todd I. Herrenkohl, PhD, University of Washington
The study of resilience in children exposed to violence of various sorts (e.g., child maltreatment, community violence, political violence) has helped deepen knowledge and advance social work practice and policy. Yet questions about core definitions, measurement, and data analytic strategies abound in the research literature. Authors of three comprehensive reviews will discuss these and other issues in their respective fields of trauma and violence research. The three papers, written for a special issue of Trauma Violence & Abuse (TVA), offer an important statement about the contributions and major advances in research, as well as gaps and inconsistencies that make the interpretation and translation of findings for practice eminently challenging. While acknowledging these barriers, presenters will also highlight important substantive advances in violence research that have come about through rigorous qualitative and quantitative studies of individuals and their communities.

Presenters are authors of substantive articles published in the TVA special issue.  One article focuses particularly on the question of how children cope with stress and violence and the factors that influence the coping process, such as where a child’s exposure to violence occurred, how severe and long-lasting the child’s exposure was, and what the child had experienced in life up to that point.  Here, the authors explain how coping is deeply rooted in social context and at the same time influenced by background characteristics and dispositions of the child. Another article provides a review of research on resilience in maltreated children and attends very directly to questions about process measures studied longitudinally.  The authors explain how longitudinal studies are essential to learning about the twists and turns in a child’s life that impact resilience measured over time. The final article examines political violence and the ways in which resilience is understood in that context.  The review is particularly helpful from the standpoint of showing where and how notions of individual risk and protection apply equally to communities, offering insights on how to build capacity for asset building at a higher level of aggregation.

Together these authors will dialogue about what research has shown to date on the nature and developmental course of resilience, the factors that promote and sustain resilience at the individual and community levels, and the ways in which person-environment interactions take hold to both support and sometimes undermine resilience, broadly defined.  Of particular note in this regard is the finding that resilience is highly malleable and, thus, amenable to intervention and to advancing social welfare policy. A final goal of the roundtable discussion is to focus on ways to advance research methods to better capture the predictors and outcomes of most interest. Presenters will discuss, as one critical step, the need to blend perspectives of the behavioral and developmental sciences with those of other science fields.  They will comment on ways to advance the science behind the theory of resilience, as both a means to fill gaps in the research literature a method to reshape how questions about resilience are being asked.

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