Resilience in adolescents adopted from Romanian orphanages: a multiple case study analysis

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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This study describes resilience (and non-resilience) processes in nine adolescents adopted between 9.5 and 24 months of age from Romanian orphanages between 1990 and 1991. The study was carried out using a qualitative case study methodology incorporating data from assessments at four time periods—at 11 months post-adoption, age 4.5, age 10.5, and age 16.5. The data were analyzed using a code and sort procedure similar to the one described by Bogdan and Biklen (1992). Case studies regarding the participants’ pathways to resilience (or non-resilience) were categorized according to the ecological framework (Ungar, Lee, Callaghan, & Boothroyd, 2005; Ungar & the International Resilience Project Team, 2006) that guides this study. This framework includes: Individual factors, Relationships factors, Community contexts, Cultural factors, and Physical ecology factors. Findings indicate that participants’ pathways to resilience were influenced by: (1) Individual factors, including pro-social character traits (e.g., being caring, thoughtful, and sensitive to others’ feelings), positive self-esteem, and a sense of ‘well-roundedness’ that manifested itself in a variety of interests including academic, athletic, musical, and social pursuits; (2) Relationship factors, including early positive attachments with adoptive parents, consistent caregiving by stay-at-home parents in the early childhood years, family structure whereby participants received a lot of individual attention, low levels of parenting stress, and positive peer relationships; (3) Community factors, including services that met the families’ needs, part-time employment opportunities that fostered a sense of responsibility and confidence in one’s abilities, and positive school environments whereby individual needs were met; and (4) Cultural factors, including a sense of ‘ease’ with adoption history, and religious affiliation. Relationship factors seemed to be the most important influence in the participants’ pathways to resilience; and physical ecology factors the least important. Individual variation was considered throughout the analyses in order to not lose sight of the complexity of resilience processes.
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