The existing literature on resiliency points to the diversity of trajectories in response to adverse events, but a clear consensus is lacking regarding how to operationalize resiliency in longitudinal studies. The inherent dynamic complexity of responses to adverse events makes it difficult to develop generalizable and empirically testable theories of resilience. Dynamical systems approaches show promise for studying complex person-in-environment interactions that involve feedback mechanisms, accumulations, and nonlinear interactions. This poster explores the feasibility of using system dynamics simulation modeling as a way to develop a feedback theory of resiliency for survivors of relationship and sexual violence.
Methods: A literature review was conducted to identify trajectories in response to adverse events characterizing the dynamic complexity of human growth and adaptation. A series of feedback models of individual responses to adverse events were then developed and tested to determine whether they could replicate empirical patterns in the literature using system dynamics. The models assumed a normal goal-oriented growth trajectory that was interrupted by one or more adverse events. These were represented as a series of exogenous shocks that could be varied by their intensity and frequency. The final model was disaggregated by exposure to adverse events and treatment condition.
Results: The final model showed that a relatively simple feedback structure of three state variables (wellness, resilience, and coping mechanisms) involving four feedback mechanisms was able to replicate the dynamic complexity of individual responses described in the extant literature. Analysis of the model revealed a number of bifurcations between resiliency, recovery, and delayed/chronic responses to trauma. Additional analyses highlighted the sensitivity of recovery to the intervals between adverse events (i.e., patterns of microaggressions that had a cumulatively larger impact than a single event, along with interactions between the two), the potential impact of building resiliency and coping skills relative to treatment.
Conclusions and Implications: The main finding from this work was the importance of including resilience as a third accumulation or state variable in order to fully account for all the distributions described in the literature. This has implications for both practice in developing growth oriented approaches to trauma and future person-in-environment studies that can inform prevention and response to campus sexual and relationship violence in the context of microaggressions and historical trauma.