Supportive Relationships & Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience

Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child

Serve and Return, ACEs, Air Traffic Control, Social Policy, Stress, Brain Architecture, Resilience

Harvard Center on the Developing Child, April 2015

Working paper 13 summarizes how recent discoveries in molecular biology, genomics, and epigenetics provide remarkable new insights into the underlying causal mechanisms that explain how supportive relationships build the capacities to deal with adversity.  This rapidly advancing research frontier demonstrates that resilience is the result of multiple interactions among protective factors in the social environment and highly responsive biological systems. These findings provide an opportunity to examine how current policies and programs could be enhanced to produce more favorable life outcomes for disadvantaged children, both by reducing their exposure to sources of adversity and by designing better ways of building their coping skills and adaptive capacities. The paper introduces the framing metaphor of the Resilience Scale to explain how early life experiences can tip the balance toward positive or negative life outcomes.