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The Role of Culture in Determining Resilience Among Marginalised Populations: A Review of Resilience Literature


This literature review suggests that the present discussion on resilience overlooks the significance of cultural factors in shaping resilience among marginalised groups. This study emphasises the necessity to acknowledge the cultural and societal aspects that promote resilience, even though resilience has been extensively researched and regarded as an individual quality. This analysis underscores the necessity of including cultural variables in formulating interventions and policies to aid disadvantaged populations by investigating the intersections of culture, identity, and resilience. In its final section, the review stresses the need to consider cultural contexts while studying resilience.


In recent years, the topic of resilience has received much attention from researchers in fields as diverse as psychology, sociology, and public health. In the face of adversity, individual and societal resilience has been the focus of resilience literature. Although there is a growing corpus of literature on resilience, the role of culture in building resilience among marginalised communities still needs to be understood. This paper contends that the present resilience literature needs to pay more attention to culture’s role in determining resilience among vulnerable groups. The purpose of this literature review is to assess where our knowledge of the function of culture in building resilience among marginalised communities stands at present. By highlighting these blind spots, this report hopes to contribute new knowledge that might guide future efforts to strengthen the resilience of underserved communities. In particular, this research investigates the role that demographic characteristics, such as race, socioeconomic level, gender, and sexual orientation, play in the emergence of resilience among marginalised groups. In addition, this paper critiques the literature for not considering the perspectives of those underrepresented in works on resilience.

Statement of Problem

The resilience literature needs to be critiqued for its insufficient consideration of cultural factors in gaining knowledge of resilience development across populations. Studies focusing on vulnerable groups, such as recent immigrants or refugees, have highlighted the need for researchers to consider cultural aspects while examining resilience (Ungar, 2013). Existing research acknowledges the importance of resilience in dealing with adversity but tends to ignore the role that cultural norms, values, and beliefs play. In marginalised areas, where cultural variables play a crucial role in moulding individuals’ experiences and coping techniques, this omission leads to incomplete knowledge of resilience and its development. Individuals’ experiences of hardship and their methods for overcoming it can be influenced by cultural variables, including language, values, beliefs, and social standards (Masten et al., 2021). Cultural competency is crucial for the success of resilience interventions, as research has shown that cultural characteristics can substantially influence resilience development across diverse populations (Masten et al., 2021). Hence, there is a considerable void in the existing literature regarding an in-depth comprehension of the function of culture in resilience development among excluded communities.

Literature Review

The concept of resilience is multifaceted, including research and applications in domains as diverse as psychology, sociology, and public health. Cultural resilience, defined as “the capacity of individuals and communities to resist and recover from the effects of cultural oppression, discrimination, and marginalisation,” is a notion that has just recently begun to be studied by academics. How Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic communities have adapted to racism and prejudice is an example of cultural resilience among at-risk groups. The impacts of prejudice can be mitigated, according to studies, when people of color can draw strength from their shared cultural traditions and identities (Sims-Schouten & Gilbert, 2022). Indigenous communities are another example of cultural resilience because they have managed to preserve their ways of life while enduring centuries of colonisation and subjugation. Maintaining one’s cultural identity and customs has been linked to improved mental health and decreased rates of substance misuse among Indigenous peoples (Wendt et al., 2019). Understanding how individuals and communities can draw on their cultural history and traditions to endure and recover from the effects of social exclusion and prejudice is central to the concept of cultural resilience. Researchers can help marginalised groups thrive and gain agency if they acknowledge and foster cultural resilience among them.

Literature on resilience has largely overlooked the significance of culture in fostering resilience, even though it is essential for vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, the more significant social and cultural factors that shape resilience have mainly been ignored in the current literature’s focus on individual-level factors like coping strategies and personal traits. This is a severe shortcoming due to the importance of cultural factors in determining how marginalised groups react to and cope with adversity. For instance, studies have demonstrated that cultural values and beliefs can influence an individual’s stress response (Masten et al., 2021). Hence, a limited understanding of the factors contributing to or inhibiting resilience among marginalised communities can result from disregarding the cultural environment in which resilience development occurs. In addition, many current works are based on Western cultural suppositions and norms that may need to be revised (Sims-Schouten & Gilbert, 2022). Because of this Eurocentric bias, efforts to produce culturally relevant interventions have been hampered, and indigenous knowledge and traditions for bolstering resilience have been largely ignored. The development of effective interventions for marginalised populations needs to be improved by the current resilience literature’s inadequate understanding of culture.

There needs to be more information about how cultural factors contribute to resilience in the literature, even though researchers have been working hard to fill up other gaps in their understanding of the concept. To overcome the unique obstacles faced by marginalised groups, it is necessary to get a better appreciation of their cultural setting. Cultural displacement, discrimination, and the resulting sense of isolation and loss of identity are everyday experiences for refugees and immigrants. Resilience among these groups is strongly influenced by cultural factors like religious beliefs and practices, family values, and social support networks (Ungar, 2013). In addition, Indigenous populations have been disadvantaged historically and structurally, leading to a decline in cultural pride and a break from long-held customs. The literature implies that Indigenous communities’ resilience can be bolstered through a cultural revival and promotion of cultural practices. Culture is vital in giving those on the margins the strength to persevere. Researchers have found that immigrant and refugee populations benefit from cultural traditions like prayer, storytelling, and traditional healing (Ager et al., 2015). Traditional knowledge, land-based activities, and revitalising Indigenous languages are all cultural practices that increase resilience in Indigenous communities. However, cultural factors in the formation of resilience still need to be understood in the present resilience literature. The relevance of cultural context in shaping resilience is often overlooked in the literature in favour of an emphasis on individual attributes. This void in the literature highlights the importance of resilience research with cultural sensitivity in mind.

Risk and Protective Factors for Resilience

Both risk and protective factors play a role in the resilience of traditionally excluded groups. Poverty, prejudice, and emotional or mental health problems are all risk factors that can weaken a person’s ability to bounce back. However, resilience can be bolstered by protective characteristics, including social support, robust connections, and ready access to resources. Furthermore, risk factors’ effects on resilience might be tempered by protective factors. Access to healthcare and education are examples of community-level protective factors that can significantly positively affect resilience among vulnerable groups. Recognising and addressing the influence of risk factors on resilience is essential, but so is encouraging protective variables to increase resilience among vulnerable populations. Community-level protective factors and socioeconomic determinants of health can be improved through policy and intervention implementation.

Many buffering factors have been linked to enhanced resilience. Protective factors can originate from the individual and their immediate surroundings as they develop into adults. Models of resilience have typically shown it as a feature that remains constant across time. However, modern theories of resilience emphasise a transactional-ecological model of human development, in which growth occurs due to ongoing interaction between the individual and the environment (Betancourt & Khan, 2008). Exciting new studies in this area look into the neurobiology of stress and adaptation, for example, with the hope of charting the effects of trauma on brain growth and function (Ungar, 2013). There is mounting evidence that individuals respond differently biologically to positive and sinister events, highlighting the need for intervention at an early age. This study can help guide the design and timing of interventions by providing a model of when people are most vulnerable to harm and when they are most capable of bouncing back from it (Ungar, 2013). The transactional-ecological paradigm has widespread scholarly support since it suggests that individuals’ outcomes result from exchanges between the individuals and their surroundings. Individual traits or temperament, familial features or resources, and extrafamilial environmental influences or assets are the three main protective factors identified by resilience research.

Implications for Interventions

The evidence from resilience research suggests that treatments should consider the reciprocal, transactional relationships between the person and their environment. At the same time, efforts to enhance isolated protective characteristics are unlikely helpful (Lutha & Cicchetti, 2007). Research has also shown the beneficial cumulative effect of protective variables; thus, an intervention that takes a more holistic approach is more likely to succeed. The best interventions, it is believed, use preexisting organisations like the community and academics to guarantee a support structure is in place not just during the intervention period but also afterwards (Lutha & Cicchetti, 2007). Interventions to foster a feeling of community and social cohesion can fall under this category, as can efforts to improve the economic security of underprivileged groups (Lebiecki & Stickney, 2018). Treatments should prioritise building resiliency-promoting strengths like social support, hope, and problem-solving abilities (Houston et al., 2016).

Research has brought up the issue that the already strained mental health services are needed even more now because of the many recent terrible natural catastrophes and the global economic crisis (Williams & Hazell, 2011). In order to develop the most efficient evidence-based interventions, combining philosophical and practical resilience paradigms is essential. The developmental and cultural needs of individuals in “high-risk” settings have been at the centre of recent research focusing on implementing specialised youth care (Williams & Hazell, 2011). Studies have shown that helping families before a crisis occurs is more cost-effective than helping them during it (Patterson, 2002). Costs associated with special education, incarceration, lost income, and government assistance programs decrease when interventions are successful (Lutha & Cicchetti, 2007). Resilience should be fostered at all levels of society, including the individual, the family, and the community.

Some scholars have questioned resilience’s relevance because they believe it is unnecessary when discussing vulnerable populations or crafting preventative measures (Lutha & Cicchetti, 2007). For instance, resilience has yet to be used in developing many successful preventative treatments. However, when the resilience paradigm is implemented, it captures the prospect of success despite obstacles and probes the systems and contexts that make resilience possible (Au & Shean, 2015). Personnel can increase their capacity to embrace resilience-building tactics by drawing from a wide range of studies already conducted on the subject. Clinicians can learn from resilience-building interventions because they teach them to concentrate less on patients’ weaknesses and more on their abilities and strengths.

The current concept of resilience is “usual enchantment,” the conviction that one can overcome obstacles and achieve one’s goals. First, the concept’s multifaceted nature will likely be the focus of future studies, and second, the relationship between hazards and protective variables. Protective factors should be bolstered through effective preventive interventions within mental health services (Lutha & Cicchetti, 2007). Promoting resilience is especially important when working with vulnerable communities because it is sometimes impossible to prevent mistreatment and abuse (Williams & Hazell, 2011).


Whilst the literature on resilience has come a long way in its understanding of the numerous components that contribute to resilience among individuals and communities, it still needs a complete grasp of the role of culture in fostering resilience among marginalised populations. The interconnectedness of various cultural aspects, such as language, religion, and spirituality, is essential to consider when addressing the needs of marginalised people. A more comprehensive understanding of resilience that considers the cultural elements that shape it requires that future research prioritise the inclusion of various viewpoints and experiences. By doing so, we can better assist underserved populations and guarantee that resilience initiatives meet the specific requirements of these groups.


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Williams, R., & Hazell, P. (2011). Austerity, poverty, resilience, and the future of mental health services for children and adolescents. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 24(4), 263–266.


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