This chapter aims to show that resilience is best defined as a dynamic, multidimensional construct that is fluid and subject to change. It begins by describing how the study of human behaviour has been heavily influenced by the disease model with its focus on individual deficits and it links this to contemporary lay-definitions, which tend to treat resilience as a character-trait rather than a phenomenon that is a product of people’s environments and experiential learning. The text shows that this view of resilience runs counter to research, which shows that resilience is heavily shaped by developmental experiences in childhood and the quality of parenting. It demonstrates this by contrasting two different models of resilience: The fixed model, which views resilience as a product of a relatively small number of personality traits, and the fluid model, which views resilience as a dynamic entity that is a product of innate dispositions, developmental opportunities and social and economic environments. In doing so it employs evidence to argue that the fixed view of resilience places too much emphasis on the role of traits in shaping resilience and evidence that resilience may be more accurately viewed as a dynamic, fluid entity that is a product of people’s innate dispositions, their early years experiences and their social and economic milieu. In making this case, it employs the bioecological model as a proxy to illustrate how synergistic factors in the growing child’s immediate environment and wider, social milieu act to powerfully promote or constrain the development of resilience during childhood.

The chapter concludes by looking at two concepts, Goodness of Fit and Reciprocity, which are jointly grounded in the principle that the processes of development in childhood are bi-directional. It considers, for example, how a child’s innate ability to tolerate stress may be modified by the characteristics of the parental environment and how developmental disorders in children can constrain parental capacity and promote methods of parenting that are counterproductive and maladaptive.