Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Wendy Kliewer

Second Advisor

Terri Sullivan

Third Advisor

Paul Perrin

Fourth Advisor

Zewe Serpell

Fifth Advisor

Miriam George


Recent literature has noted that not all youth who experience adverse circumstances (e.g. poverty, exposure to violence, maltreatment) end up displaying expected unfavorable outcomes (e.g. academic failure, depression, drug dependence); in fact, some youth display “resilience,” broadly understood as adaptive functioning in the face of adversity (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000). Overall, research on resilience has offered a new approach to the study of at-risk populations, emphasizing the study of strengths, processes, and mechanisms among individuals and communities that may favor positive adaptation, rather than emphasizing deficits among those experiencing adversity (Schoon, 2012). Although resilience research has come a long way, the importance of cultural processes in resilience only recently has been considered, there is still a dearth of studies among diverse contexts and cultural groups (Betancourt et al., 2011), and there is a lack of prospective analyses examining the stability of resilience over time (O’Dougherty et al., 2015). The present study examined the existence of profiles of adjustment among youth who had experienced some kind of adversity in three contexts: (1) Medellin, Colombia (n = 967); (2) Guatemala (n = 2.470); and (3) Chicago, USA (n=491), as well as protective factors associated with profile classification. Furthermore, the continuity of profiles over time was examined in the Chicago sample. Results showed that for each context, diverse profiles of adjustment emerge in the presence of adversity. For all contexts some youth were classified as either resilient (defined as scoring 1 SD above or below the mean on selected indicators) or as holding steady (scoring above the mean but less than 1 SD). Profiles exhibiting high levels of internalizing symptoms, externalizing problems, or problems across domains also were identified across contexts. Protective factors at the individual (e.g. sex, intelligence, prosocial behavior) and at the contextual (e.g. family cohesion, prosocial peers, positive relationship with teacher) levels proved relevant for profile classification, with some factors being relevant in one context but not in another. Prospective analyses revealed both continuity and discontinuity in profile classification among youth in Chicago, with some youth remaining classified in the same group across time points, whereas others transitioned between groups. These results highlight the importance of studying resilience in context, given that what constitutes a salient protective factor for some youth may not be relevant for others. Moreover, these results show that as youth negotiate developmental tasks within their ecologies, there is potential for both continuity and discontinuity in resilience processes. The results can inform prevention and intervention efforts aiming to work from a strength based approach.


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