Resilience Review: A Literature Review

This detailed document, comprising over 300 pages and close to 500 references, can be downloaded in its entirity from this website. The review will be of interest to academics; social workers, therapists and practitioners; military families and health care workers; policy makers; occupational social workers; industrial and clinical psychologists; child therapists; any person interested in developing his or her own resilience to life's demands.

The abstract of the document follows:

Resilience theory, although it has been evolving over the past 70-80 years, has enjoyed a renaissance in the past two or three decades. What started as an enquiry into the childhood roots of resilience has grown into a broad, dynamic and exciting field of study. Resilience theory currently addresses individuals (both children and adults), families, communities, workplaces and policies. There are few domains of life that have not been touched in one or other way by resilience theory, including the military community.

This document serves to review the wealth of literature on resilience and to provide a consolidated summary of this literature. Close to 500 sources are cited in this document, published between 1945 and 2001, and drawing from books, academic journals, masters and doctoral dissertations, released government and military reports, training and family manuals, popular magazines and unreleased research reports. The comprehensive review addresses:

  • Individual resilience (including resilience in children, salutogenesis, sense of coherence, thriving, hardiness, learned resourcefulness, self-efficacy, locus of control, potency, stamina and personal causation),
  • Family resilience (including family stress research, Hill's ABCX model of family stress, family strengths research and the various models of family resilience developed by McCubbin and associates - Double ABCX Model, FAAR Model, T-Double ABCX Model and the most recent Resiliency Model of Family Adjustment and Adaptation),
  • Community resilience (including social support systems and a number of cutting edge writings in this newly evolving field),
  • Resilience-based policy (again with the latest thinking on the integration of resilience theory into policy formulation, and with a detailed section on work-life or work-family policies as an example of resilience-based policy),
  • Resilience theory in social work (including an historical review of social work's inconsistent alliance with resilience theory, the newly evolving strengths perspective and the narrative and solution-focused therapies of Michael White and Steve DeShazer),
  • Cross-cultural perspectives on resilience, and
  • Deployment resilience (including a detailed review of literature pointing towards families developing the resilience to resist the stress of military separations).

This review does not aim to provide a synthesis of these various fields of study, but rather to bring together in one place a range of writings and perspectives on resilience and strength that have not previously been seen together in one document.

The document can be freely downloaded either as a single pdf file, or chapter by chapter. To open the documents in your browser, simply click on the links. To download the documents, right click on the links and select the 'Save Target As' option:

v      Click here to download the complete document (3.62MB, 333pp).

v      Or download the zipped document by clicking here (2.81MB). 

v      The advantages of the complete document are:

o        The document is comprehensively bookmarked in Adobe Acrobat, facilitating easy browing.

o        The document contains all 333 pages, with a comprehensive review of resilience theory.

o        The document contains a detailed eight-page index.

v      Click on the links below to download the document chapter by chapter:

o        Table of Contents and Chapter 1: Introduction (282KB, 17pp)

o        Chapter 2: Individual Resilience (864KB, 54pp)

o        Chapter 3: Family Resilience (1.47MB, 86pp)

o        Chapter 4: Community Resilience (268KB, 24pp)

o        Chapter 5: Resilience-Based Policy (370KB, 36pp)

o        Chapter 6: Resilience Theory in Social Work (243KB, 20pp)

o        Chapter 7: Cross-cultural Perspectives on Resilience (124KB, 6pp)

o        Chapter 8: Deployment Resilience (690KB, 50pp)

o        References & Index (529KB, 56pp)

Kindly ensure accurate and adequate referencing of the document. The following APA formatted reference is requested:

Van Breda, A.D. (2001). Resilience theory: A literature review. Pretoria, South Africa: South African Military Health Service.  Available: 

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Site last updated: 14 June 2007