Why do some children grow and thrive in the worst of circumstances? The findings merit public attention, though the study...

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VULNERABLE BUT INVINCIBLE: A Longitudinal Study of Resilient Children and Youth

Why do some children grow and thrive in the worst of circumstances? The findings merit public attention, though the study itself may be read only by professionals. Werner and Smith--professor of human development, Univ. of California, Davis, and clinical psychologist, respectively--examined problems of developmental disability, mental health, and antisocial behavior in their earlier books, The Children of Kauai and Kauai's Children Come of Age. Here, they use their full range of longitudinal data (prenatal to age 18 for more than 600 children) to first identify the factors that most accurately predict serious coping problems (low level of maternal education, a low rating of family stability, moderate to severe perinatal stress); then, to identify 72 children who encountered one or more of those risk factors, yet managed to ""work well and live well""--the resilient youth. Not surprisingly, as infants these children tended to be robust and responsive, and to have learned to trust; as toddlers, they ""evolved coping patterns that combined the ability to provide their own structure with the ability to ask for support when needed."" The authors' findings of sex differences are more striking: resilient boys demonstrated more ""gentle, emotionally responsive aspects of human nature""; resilient girls were more assertive, autonomous, vigorous, and self-assured. In sum, both evinced a ""healthy androgyny."" However, the authors' conclusions--plugging respect for human ""self-righting tendencies"" (with echoes of benign neglect)--seem more than a little overstated, since only 72 of the 600 children were identified as resilient. Still, the methodological and statistical aspects of the study will be of interest to professionals, while the combination of case studies and reassessment could fuel some discussion-at-large.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 1981

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981