Methods: We conducted comprehensive literature searches using electronic searching databases, including Medline, SocINDEX, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Academic Search Complete to identify studies on child maltreatment and resilience. We also examined the reference lists from previous articles to identify any additional eligible studies. Key search terms used for the searches included child maltreatment, child abuse, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, protective factors, promotive factors, and resilience/ resiliency/ resilient. Inclusion criteria were studies that 1) explicitly examined child maltreatment and resilience; 2) were quantitative empirical studies; 3) were published since 2010; 4) were peer-reviewed publications; and 5) were published in English. A total of 67 peer-reviewed, quantitative empirical articles were included in this review. Of the 67 articles, three articles focused on early childhood (birth to age 5), seven focused on school age (ages 6–12), 24 focused on adolescence (ages 13–19), and 33 focused on adulthood (age 20 and older).
Results: Studies typically conceptualized resilience following maltreatment in one of three ways: 1) as a personality trait, 2) as outcomes related to adaptive functioning, or 3) as socioecological resources. Studies conducted on early childhood and school-aged participants consistently conceptualized resilience as outcomes or processes related to adaptive functioning whereas studies focused on adulthood most frequently conceptualized resilience as a personal trait. Three common approaches were found regarding ways in which the construct of resilience was assessed: 1) lack of psychopathology or negative outcomes, 2) multi-domain composite scores, and 3) resilience-specific measures or scales. It was noted that individual’s developmental stage actively influenced researcher’s decisions regarding how resilience was assessed. Furthermore, the findings also indicated developmental variations in features of resilience, with different individual, relational, and community protective features emerging based on age and life stage.
Conclusions/Implications: Results suggest that some inconsistencies in the literature may be addressed by utilizing a developmental lens and considering the individual’s life stage when selecting a definition of resilience and associated measurement tool. For instance, this review suggests that some protective features may be inherently more beneficial at certain developmental stages than at others. As efforts to understand resilience increase, more effective strategies to assess and promote resilience may be generated. Still, the results of this review indicate that it is critical to incorporate a developmental perspective into the creation and implementation of any resilience-focused interventions.