Vulnerable, but invincible? ecosystemic pathways to South African youths' resilience
Theron, Linda C
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The earliest studies of resilience (Anthony & Cohler, 1987; Werner & Smith, 1982) posited that resilient young people were "vulnerable, but invincible" (Werner, 1996) or even "invulnerable" (Anthony & Cohler, 1987). At this initial stage in the study of resilience, this assertion that young people were indestructible, despite being placed at risk by adversities such as poverty, marginalisation, or pathologically ill parents, was not questioned. While the focus on young people's strengths was a welcome change from decades of medical-model-like focusing on deficits and pathology, conceptualising young people who adjusted well to risk as quasi-superheroes was, and is, problematic. Thus, the aim of my address tonight is to review how the study of resilience has progressed to the point where we can question the notion of unbreakable young people and, more importantly, comprehend resilience as a bidirectional transaction between young people and their ecologies. The significance of this more recent ransactionalecosystemic understanding of resilience has direct implications for how we as South Africans conceptualise and promote the protective processes necessary to support changes in life trajectories from risk to adaptation.