Adversity exposure and psychological functioning

Resilience has often been conceptualized as a categorical outcome in cross-sectional or prospective studies. These measures tend to focus on the absence of psychological distress despite prior exposure to adversity. In other words, individuals are classified as “resilient” if they have experienced adversity or trauma and do not show psychopathology or psychological dysfunction. In contrast, individuals are classified as “non-resilient” if they have experienced adversity or trauma but show evidence of psychopathology or psychological dysfunction. 

A more comprehensive measure of psychological functioning includes both absence of psychological distress AND presence of positive psychological functioning. These measures capture a range of psychological adaptation in the face of adversity, reflecting not only distress or psychopathology but also positive psychological functioning or well-being. Classification of “resilient” individuals for these measures therefore depends not only on absence of psychopathology or psychological dysfunction, but also evidence of positive psychological functioning. Of note, resilience measures incorporating both negative and positive psychological domains are uncommon in the literature, likely in part because positive psychological functioning is infrequently assessed in population-based studies.

Reference: Stein, M. B., Choi, K. W., Jain, S., Campbell‐Sills, L., Chen, C. Y., Gelernter, J., … & Nock, M. K. (2019). Genome‐wide analyses of psychological resilience in US Army soldiers. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 180(5), 310-319. 10.1002/ajmg.b.32730