Methods: Semi-structured qualitative interviews were completed with practitioners who provide services to children following experiences of maltreatment (N=27). All interviews were audio recorded and professionally transcribed. Transcripts were then thematically coded and analyzed by four graduate researcher associates; each transcript was coded by two independent coders. Codes were triangulated, and peer debriefing occurred following transcription to insure reliability. All researchers then engaged in a process of collaborative theme development.
Results: The study codes yielded two primary themes relating to factors that inhibit or promote resilience among maltreated children: (1) factors internal to the child, and (2) factors external to the child. Internal factors referred to characteristics of the individual child that could influence their likelihood of displaying resilience, such as the child’s developmental stage, sense of hope for the future, capacity to reframe their behaviors and experiences, presence of pre-existing coping skills, and willingness to engage in an active process of learning how to cope and move forward. The practitioners also mentioned that some children displayed resilience almost as a personality characteristic, where all circumstances would indicate that a child should be struggling but moves through therapy successfully. External factors, as the name implies, refer to context and circumstances outside of the individual child that can impact the resilience including whether the child was believed upon disclosing maltreatment, the stability of the home environment, whether the child had ongoing contact with the maltreatment perpetrator, the presence of predictable and safe relationships, and level of access to resources. Practitioners frequently posited that any of these internal or external factors could promote or inhibit resilient functioning; they tended to characterize inhibitory factors as the inverse of promotive factors.
Conclusion and Implications: Practitioners understood resilience as internal and external factors which, taken together, influence the ways and degree to which children display resilience following maltreatment. The findings help to integrate practitioner perspectives into current conceptualizations of resilience. This study carries implications for increased reliance on translational research in the resilience field, reflecting the practical perspectives and needs of front line social workers. Further, the results can help us to better understand how practitioners’ perspectives shape the interventions they deliver for the purposes of building resilience capacity.