Resilience From a Marginalized Perspective: Towards a Culturally Responsive Construct

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University of Alabama Libraries

Resilience can be defined as positive adaptation despite adversity or one’s ability to bounce back in the face of significant threats to development. While the general consensus on what it means to be resilient has expanded over time, our conceptualizations of the concept continue to be largely understood from a mainstream, homogeneous perspective. Underlying assumptions regarding this perspective are that: a) resilience holds the same meaning for all individuals and groups; and b) marginalized youth possess a sort of “ordinary magic” that they can and should utilize in persevering through historical and contextual constraints. The idea that promoting a perspective of resilience based on the typical behavior of the majority has the potential to do more harm than good for marginalized and disadvantaged groups, such as African Americans, is what drives the current dissertation. The current dissertation addresses this issue by answering the following questions: 1) What is the lived experience of African American youth’s resilience within the context of childhood adversity due to race and social class (specifically, low-income/poverty)? and 2) How do African Americans frame their lived experience with resilience within the context of childhood adversity due to race and social class (specifically, low-income/poverty)? This dissertation draws upon Post-structuralism, Ecological Systems Theory, and Intersectionality Theory, as it utilizes a phenomenological design with interpretive repertoires as a feature to center 9, African American individuals from low-income childhood backgrounds and their lived experience with adversity and positive adaptation. Findings identify eight themes of childhood adversity, six themes regarding external factors of positive adaptation, and six themes regarding internal factors of positive adaptation within family, community, and individual dimensions. Findings also conclude seven interpretive repertoires in which participants used to frame their lived experience with resilience, underscoring institutional and structural inequalities as a key factor in making their experience unique. Much of social work and its efforts are targeted towards the marginalized, vulnerable, and disadvantaged. Therefore, it is fitting that a contextually- and culturally-driven stance on the concept of resilience would aid social workers and their practices in being more open and inclusive of the experiences of those they aim to serve. As the concept of resilience is ubiquitous to the field of social work and its practices, it is important to understand marginalized perspectives on what it means to overcome adversity and be resilient.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
African Americans, Child and Family Welfare, Cultural Responsiveness, Marginalized Groups, Resilience Theory, Risk and Resilience