The following two Australian projects provide some insight into how we can use research findings to develop programs that promote better outcomes for children and adolescents.
In the 1990s, a number of Australian Government reports highlighted the vulnerability of children whose parents had a mental illness. Risk, resilience, and recover: Perspectives from the Kauai longitudinal study.
However, although research demonstrates that both individual and environmental factors are important contributors to resilience, there is evidence that it may be the individual level factors that have the greatest impact (Kalland, 2002).
Emmy Werner, an early contributor to resilience research, conducted a longitudinal study of the total cohort of children born on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in 1955.
A range of intervention programs for children have been developed both overseas and in Australia based on such research.
It is this process of interaction between risk and protective factors at both the individual and environmental level that is said to determine resilience.Environmental factors shown to make a difference to outcome for children include family stability and support, good peer relationships, involvement in community activities, and a sense of connectedness to family, friends and the community in general.Masten (1989) has argued that maladaption is more likely to occur when risk factors outweigh protective factors in any given context.These children were considered to be more at risk of mental health problems than the general population (Mental Health Promotion and Illness Prevention Policy; Office of Mental Health, 2002). In 2001, the Australian Government allocated funding to promote better mental health outcomes for children of parents with a mental illness.