Social Construction of Resilience?

A constructionist perspective on resilience offers a socio-ecological explanation of resilience that helps in understanding it as a socially and culturally embedded phenomenon. To contextualize the resilience process, it is important to give voice to people's experiences and investigate the environmental pathways that contribute to person-environment interaction during the resilience process. Ungar’s (Ungar,
2011, 2013) study on resilience offers a constructionist approach, suggesting a socio-ecological explanation of resilience. The constructionist approach is particularly beneficial in understanding resilience as a social and culturally anchored phenomenon. Ungar explained resilience as a socio-ecological construct using four principles: decentring (focusing on the person-environment process as the locus of change), complexity (interactional pattern of environment and young people’s capacities), atypicality (interest in understanding resilience beyond pre-determined outcomes), and cultural relativity (resilience as culturally and historically embedded). Ungar’s study on young people’s resilience reveals a contextualized interpretation of resilience by taking into consideration the young people’s perspectives and experiences as well as the pathways in the environment and context that contribute to resilience.
The human experience is a multi-layered pattern of complex and interconnected lived experiences. In this sense, ’measuring’ social resilience cannot identify the layers of meaning and the process of meaning-making that emerge from migration and integration experiences. Qualitative research (with an inductive interpretive approach) contributes to resolving the shortcomings of quantitative research by developing a bottom-up perspective on resilience and studying the social construction of resilience in the context of lived experiences. A participant-centered approach enhances the process of investigation by providing an in-depth description of the phenomenon and acknowledging the subjective interpretation biases (
Ungar, 2003). Resilience as a process is an abstract phenomenon that is diverse, complex, and multidimensional, and it develops over time through person-environment interactions (Saja et al., 2018; Southwick et al., 2014). Understanding resilience as a dynamic context-specific process can help to represent a phenomenological pattern of social resilience that is more comparable to the life-course perspective.
As previously stated, the person-environment interaction evolves through time and contributes to social resilience. Interdependence, cultural adherence, informal social networking, local knowledge, belief practices, the social value of relationships, and community members all contribute to social resilience as a complex and cohesive whole. Since the phenomenon of social resilience is deeply embedded in the social, political, economic, and cultural context of the individual’s lived experience; the significance of context is evident in this respect. While contextualization of human experience provides an interpretative framework, the theoretical aspects of the context should be explored to comprehend the intersectionality of the environmental factors that constitute the experience in the social world. The impact of environmental factors and available resources, as well as adversity experiences, are all connected to the resilience process (
Coyne and Downey, 1991; Folkman, 2020; Thoits, 1986). The experience of enduring and surviving is inherent in how resilience is socially constructed, internalized, and translated into adaptation and transformation. In this sense, social resilience as an interdisciplinary construct should broaden its scope to include community dynamics, adaptability, and the accompanying psychological, cultural, economic, and political characteristics of the phenomenon. Contextualizing social resilience helps in conceptualizing it as a phenomenon with process-oriented interdisciplinary investigative features.
Figure1. A constructionist perspective on social resilience as a person-environment process

The constructionist perspective of resilience (figure 1) is methodologically rigorous and involves substantial qualitative research. For example, the experiences of social resilience of migrants in the host country reflect their transition and transformation from risk perception to adaptability and stability. Cultural (including acculturation challenges), social (belongingness and support), and political (policies and provisions) factors shape their changing lives in the context of their survival and integration in the hosting country during this transitory experience (see for example
Berry and Kim, 1987; Caplan, 2007; Taloyan et al., 201; Jasso and Rosenzweig, 1990; Odmalm, 2011). Hence, social resilience as a learned and constructed phenomenon occurs at the nexus of environmental factors and person/environment interaction.


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