Questioning the Power of Resilience: Are Children Up To the Task of Disrupting the Transmission of Poverty?

Resilience is an increasingly popular term employed in child development and international development discourse. Applied to childhood poverty, poverty over the life course and the intergenerational transmission of poverty, the resilience of boys and girls may be considered as serving as a conceptual and analytical tool for examining the ways in which young humans are able to overcome the negative outcomes of poverty and prevent its transfer within families, households and communities. This paper reviews the development and application of the concept and assesses its usefulness for poverty researchers and practitioners. Since resilience has not yet achieved a generally accepted definition or a credible theory of how it functions, it does not benefit the field with improved analytical precision. Efforts to improve understanding of the causes and effects of children’s poverty and the intergenerational transmission of poverty would be better served by relinquishing the metaphor of resilience while retaining the focus on particular factors that moderate and mediate poverty experiences and outcomes.

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Chronic Poverty Research Centre
Oxford, UK