The Resilience Theory in Context of Teen Suicide Prevention

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay

Resilience Theory

Norman Garmenzy pioneered the Resilience Theory in the 1940s and 1950s. Resilience is a process that can create changes as new risks or strengths develop with different life circumstances. Resilience doesn’t mean unscathed or invulnerable but is proven by adaptive behaviors and life patterns. Resilience comes from the way teenagers interact with other people and the way other people’s actions are taken and reacted to. For someone who behaves and feels reasonably well despite being surrounded by adversity, there are functional neural and stress response systems that enable him or her to organize attention, behavior, and emotion to be able to adapt (Yates, T.M. et al., 2015).

Theory Origins and Credibility

In the early stages of the theory, the history and prognosis of patients with severe mental disorders, including schizophrenia, were researched. Then in the 1960s, Garmenzy studied more of the things that preceded mental illness and started focusing on children of mentally ill parents due to their higher risk of developing mental disorders. In the 1970s, Garmenzy shifted his focus again to the study of capability in children who were at risk due to their parents having a mental illness, living in poverty, and having many stressful life experiences (Guttman, L.M., 2019). The Resiliency Theory focuses on three models – compensatory, protective, and challenge – have guided resilience research since then.

Theory Applicability

Can the Resiliency Theory help with the prevention of teen suicides by increasing protective powers for at-risk adolescents? This question is answered with research done for the most significant of the twelve of Social Work’s Grand Challenges – Achieve equal opportunity and justice (Bent-Goodley, 2016).


In the Resiliency Theory, one of the main concepts includes defining risk factors. Risk factors are identified as stressors that increased the likelihood of mental disorders in children, which pose a significant threat to the children’s basic needs, such as physical sustenance and protection. Some well-known examples of risk factors for children include parents getting divorced, harsh parenting, parents fighting a lot, one or both parents being chronically ill, one or both parents having a mental illness, having a single parent, having a lot of stressful life events happen, being bullied by kids at school, and being a victim of discrimination socially (Guttman, L.M., 2019).

Theory Research

There are three basic models to the Resiliency Theory – compensatory, protective, and challenge. The compensatory model describes a process in which promotive factors (factors associated with positive development and help children overcome adversity) neutralize exposure to risk an opposite, direct, and independent effect on outcomes. Compensatory factors contribute additionally to the prediction of outcomes and are commonly entered in a regression analysis after risks are accounted for. The protective factor model is a process in which promotive factors alleviate the adverse effects of risks for anticipating negative outcomes.

Protective factors are those aspects of the teenagers, environments, situations, and events that relate to positive adaptation under conditions of adversity. (Guttman, L.M., 2019). Finally, the challenge model operates more like prevention, with exposure to average levels of risk helping teenagers overcome repeated exposure. The first exposure of risk has to be challenging enough to support the teenagers develop the coping mechanisms necessary to overcome the issue, but not so much that it overwhelms their ability to cope. An excellent example of this model is a teenager that has social conflicts that are resolved appropriately regularly can help him or her avoid a violent response in later, more heated social disagreements (Zimmerman, MA. et al., 2013).

In the United States alone, over 40,000 people died by suicide in 2012 (including adolescents). There has been a lot of research conducted on suicide risk and ways of reducing it. According to the International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, three questions will be answered to achieve this goal – What are the moderators that might increase or decrease the risk for suicide? What are the mediators between suicide risk and suicidal outcomes? How can e better integrate theory into our empirical investigations? (Kleiman, E.M. and Anestis, M.D., 2015).

The Resilience Theory research focuses more on psychopathology, rather than behavior. The behavior of substance use, violent behavior, and sexual behavior pose substantial health risks to teenagers and play a significant role in their development. Teenagers between the ages of 12 to 15 that had feelings of happiness, interest, and were relaxed, were protected against the risk of using cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana. Teenagers need to have family connectedness and parental involvement in school to prevent substance use also. It is also a big help to teenagers if their parents do not use substances like cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana, where teens might end up wanting to try it. When it comes to violent behavior and teenagers, parental support and things like religiosity have both benefited and protected against the risk factor for violent behavior or getting into fights with others. With sexual behaviors, self-esteem and self-image are significant factors. (Fergus, S. and Zimmerman, M.A., 2004). If familial relationships are shaky or filled with maladaptive coping and mental health issues, teenagers are less likely to have strong relationships with other adults in their lives (De Luca, S.M. et al., 2020).

One of the most studied suicide risk factors is hopelessness. Studies have found that high levels of psychological pain increase the connection between suicide risk and hopelessness. This is when teenagers start to use substances like cigarettes and alcohol and marijuana, display violent behavior as well as sexual behavior (Kleiman, E.M. and Anestis, M.D., 2015). Suicide prevention must be family system-focused. While there is compelling research evaluating the effectiveness of school-based suicide prevention programs for teenagers, there is also limited research contributing to the prevention of teenage depression. Due to the high rates and adverse outcomes, there has been a lot of research that has been focused on identifying effective treatment strategies. The age of 12 seems to be a critical period for the onset of depressive disorders, which brings on feelings of hopelessness as well. Teenagers with higher symptoms of depression are more likely to have a decrease in their school and work performance, not do great in social settings, and have an increased risk of substance abuse (Singh, N. et al., 2019).

In light of increased rates of suicide that has been happening among teenagers, the emphasis of suicide treatment is crucial now more than ever. Treatments for teenagers for suicide prevention have been taken from adult treatments and studied. The types of treatments that have been considered include Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Suicide Prevention, Mentalization Based Therapy for Adolescents in combination with Safe Alternatives for Teens and Youths. Dialectical Behavior Therapy studies demonstrated that there were substantial gains initially, but only for the first year. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mentalization Based Therapy were shown to have the most compelling improvement in suicide risk prevention throughout the treatment period compared to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (Rufio, K.A. and Patriquin, M.A., 2019). For teenagers, having emotional clarity is imperative. Emotional clarity involves the ability to understand their mood and to differentiate between their feelings and be able to repair or moderate a bad mood successfully. Higher levels of emotional clarity have been connected to better life fulfillment and the elimination of negative thoughts. This has also shown to be a productive way to prevent teen suicide (Ramos-Diaz, E. et al., 2018).

Theory’s Application to Diversity and Inclusion

The Census of 2018 predicts that the United States Hispanic population will increase to 17% of the entire United States population. Hispanics, in general, report higher rates of mental health conditions than non-Hispanics due to social reasons like poverty, oppression, and discrimination. The Centers found that the United States Hispanic females are more likely to struggle with moderate and severe depression compared to non-Hispanic Caucasian women. The increase in the United States Hispanics is a concern because Hispanics in the United States are the largest racial/ethical group. Hispanic females amount to the highest number of United States births compared to other races or ethnicities and are expected to remain as the Hispanic population grows. There is research form the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that finds that Hispanic female teenagers are at a higher risk or suicidal behaviors than their peers. Depressive issues amid Hispanic mothers are a weighty issue that requires further investigation to be able to understand and be informed to prevent future suicides (De Luca, S.M. et al., 2020).

What are Social Work’s Grand Challenges? The grand challenges address common interests across many professional groups and are not definitive to any one organization or way of thinking. Its framework encourages the development of resources to handle the identified areas across social work organizations, schools, and individuals to come together and discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time. Social workers play an essential role in molding, being conscious about, and crafting new interventions at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. The Mezzo-level includes neighborhoods, schools, and community centers. The Micro-level includes vulnerable individuals and victims of domestic violence. And the Macro-level consists of large communities (Bent-Goodley, 2016).

It’s important to mention how the Resilience Theory is inclusive of diverse human experiences. Achieving equal opportunity and justice is the most intimidating Grand Challenge of Social Work. It is also the most essential in “sociopolitics.” The use of social policy to set the bar and universalize social norms is a fundamental strategy for achieving equal opportunity and justice. A great example, from the results of a study, compared teen suicide attempts in states with legalized same-sex marriage. Changing and making more accommodating laws mitigates suicide attempts affecting the LGBT community. Teenagers are less likely to have feelings of hopelessness and use substances like cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana, have violent behaviors, and sexual behaviors because they can be free to love and be with who they want to be with. Continuing discrimination and racism and oppression hinder achieving equal opportunity and justice, even to this day (Cederbaum, J.A. et al., 2018).

Theory’s Limitations/Gaps

Cultivating resilience has become a necessary objective in education and social policy with teenagers, families, and communities. Research has recognized that some groups might be more exposed to certain risks because of their social identities, the development of the Resilience Theory has been mostly concerned with understanding personal differences. There are challenges such as cultural practices, social processes, social change, and the nature of individual-social relations that are significant to the situation of analyzing resilience. Relationships with family and with people in places like schools are essential for teenagers and their development. Home and school are commonly influential on behaviors in both, and if there is a disconnect in one, it could affect the other, causing a limitation or gap. For example, if a parent is experiencing stress at work and bring it home and take it out on their child after school, it could impact the parent-child relationship, and that could carry over into the school environment (Bottrell, D., 2009).

Is the theory Bullet-Proof?

Teachers in the classroom have many opportunities on a daily basis to help teenagers develop autonomy and independence and work with each teen individually to his or her needs. Having a positive classroom climate is also very important because it allows teenagers to develop social skills, respect for individualism, and encourages teamwork when working together. Periodic contact between teachers and parents is vital to be able to emphasize the teen’s skill development, confidence, and motivation (Morrison, G.M. and Allen, M.R, 2005). There is one drawback to this theory. If either or both the teacher or the parents are not available or willing to put in the time or effort to focus on the teenager and make these conditions occur, then the teenager will suffer from it. The idea behind this theory is not “bullet-proof.” Everyone involved needs to do their part for the teenager to be successful, and for suicide prevention to occur.

Garmenzy vs. Rutter

There is another researcher by the name of Michael Rutter, who also focuses on the theory of resilience, but at a different angle. Garmenzy’s focus on resilience emphasizes the individual’s environment facilitating human development, whereas Rutter believes it has to do with an individual’s successful coping under stress. It has to do with how external risks are handled by the individual (Ungar, M. et al., 2013). Protection from environmental hazards may come from exposure to risk in a controlled situation, rather than completely avoiding the risk altogether. An example of this is in the natural immunity to infections that come about by immunizations and vaccinations. Over time, the more someone is exposed to something, the less it will affect him or her, and they become “immune” to it. The same goes for teenagers and the situations they experience, especially bad ones that include themselves and their families and things that happen at school (Rutter, M., 2006).


By achieving equal opportunity and justice, the Resilience Theory can be more productive. The use of social policy to set the bar and universalize social norms is a fundamental strategy for achieving equal opportunity and justice. Although barriers such as continued discrimination and racism and oppression hinder achieving equal opportunity and justice still exist, things are always moving in the right direction. The Resilience Theory has advanced our knowledge of the best ways to prevent teen suicide, such as treatments like Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Suicide Prevention, Mentalization Based Therapy for Adolescents in combination with Safe Alternatives for Teens and Youths.

Encouraging teenagers to have emotional clarity is another significant way to prevent teen suicide. The Resilience Theory is on the right track and something that can be built upon. External factors are things that affect the way teenagers behave and feel about others. Sometimes it is something that can be traumatic and something that goes with them into adulthood. If teenagers can have better experiences and better relationships that teens can have with their families and teachers and coaches and have good self-esteem, they will more than likely have more resilience as adults.


  1. Bent-Goodley, Tricia B. (2016). National Association of Social Workers. Social Work’s Grand Challenges: Mobilizing the Profession. Doi: 10.1093/sw/sww035
  2. Bottrell, Dorothy. (2009). Understanding ‘Marginal’ Perspectives Towards a Social Theory of Resilience. Qualitative Social Work Vol 8(3): 321-339 DOI: 10.1177/1473325009337840
  3. Cederbaum, Julie, A.; Ross, Abigail M.; Ruth, Betty J.; and Keefe, Robert H. (2018). National Association of Social Workers. Public Health Social Work as Unifying Framework for Social Work’s Grand Challenges. Doi: 10.1093/sw/swy/045
  4. De Luca, Susan M.; Yan, Yueqi, and Johnston, Carol. (January 22, 2020). “Can we talk?”: A longitudinal analysis of Latino & non-Hispanic parent-child connectedness & adolescent ideation. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j/childyouth.2020.104775
  5. Fergus, Stevenson and Zimmerman, Marc A. (October 26, 2004). Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan. Annu. Rev. Public Health 2005. 26:399-419 DOI: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.26.021304.144357
  6. Gutman, Leslie Morison. (2019). Risk and Resilience. Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology.
  7. Kleiman, Evan M., and Anestis, Michael D. (2015). International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy. Introduction to the Special Issue: Recent Advances in Suicide Research: Mediator and Moderators of Risk and Resilience. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 8(2), 95-98, 2015
  8. Morrison, Gale M., and Allen, Megan R. (2005). Promoting Student Resilience in School Contexts. Theory into Practice, 46(2), 162-169
  9. Ramos-Diaz, Estibaliz; Rodriguez-Fernandez, Arantzazu; Axpe, Inge; and Ferrara, Margaret. (November 24, 2018). Perceived Emotional Intelligence and Life Satisfaction Among Adolescent Students; The Mediating Role of Resilience. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-0058-0
  10. Rufino, Katrina A., and Patriquin, Michelle A. (2019). Child and Adolescent Suicide: Contributing Risk Factors and New Evidence-Based Interventions, Children’s Health Care, 48:4, 345-350. DOI: 10.1080/02739615.2019.1666009
  11. Rutter, Michael. (2006). Implications of Resilience Concepts for Scientific Understanding. Annals New York Academy of Sciences 1094: 1-12. DOI: 10.1196/annals.1376.002
  12. Singh, Nikita; Minaie, Matin G.; Skvarc, David R.; and Toumbourou, John W. (February 25, 2019). Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-009992-6
  13. Ungar, Michael, Ghazinour, Mehdi, and Richter, Jorg. Annual Research Review: What is resilience within the social ecology of human development? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 54:4 (2013), pp. 348-366
  14. Yates, Tuppet, M.; Tyrell, Fanita A.; and Masten, Ann S. (2015). Resilience Theory and the Practice of Positive Psychology From Individuals to Societies. Public Policy and Systems for Resilience and Social Planning, Chapter 14.
  15. Zimmerman, Marc A. (August 2013). Health Educ Behav. 2013 August ; 40(4): 281-383. DOI:10.1177/1090198113493782
  16. Zimmerman, Marc A.; Stoddard, Sarah A.; Eisman, Andria B.; Caldwell, Cleopatra H.; Alyer, Sophie M.; and Miller, Alison. Child Dev Perpect. (December 2013); 7(4): . DOI: 10.1111/cdep.12042. School of Public Health, University of Michigan.

Cite this paper

The Resilience Theory in Context of Teen Suicide Prevention. (2021, Dec 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-resilience-theory-in-context-of-teen-suicide-prevention/

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out