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The International Resilience Project (2003-2005)

The International Resilience Project (IRP) aims to develop a more culturally sensitive understanding of how youth around the world effectively cope with the adversities that they face. The IRP uses a unique cross-cultural approach that employs both quantitative and qualitative research methods to examine individual, interpersonal, family, community and cultural factors associated with building resilience in youth around the world. In particular, the study has helped to develop the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM) and a tool box of qualitative research techniques.

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During the first 3-year phase of the research, the IRP piloted and integrated innovative quantitative and qualitative research methods and collected data with over 1500 children in 14 communities on five continents. We continue to collect data on the applicability of our research tools, both qualitative and quantitative, through partnerships with colleagues in countries around the world. This work continues through out other research projects; Pathways to Resilience, Negotiating Resilience, and Spaces and Places.

The second phase of our project undertakes a number of different qualitative and quantitative research initiatives to further our investigation of the culturally and contextually varied ways resilience is understood, as well as good outcomes achieved by children faced with adversities such as poverty, war, violence, drugs, the illness of a parent, family or community dislocation and cultural disintegration.

Combined, this work aims to enhance our collaborators’ capacities to apply the research findings, seeding action to make our research applicable to those who intervene and those who make policy.

The International Resilience Project's partners' and colleagues' perspectives on resilience can be heard on the IRP Video, 'What does Resilience mean to you?'

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The International Resilience Project aims to develop research methods appropriate to the study of health related phenomena in at-risk child and youth populations in different cultural contexts. The project also attempts to address the arbitrariness in the selection of outcome variables that are chosen to study youth resilience.

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During the first 3 year phase of the research, the IRP team met with and collected data from over 1400 children aged 12-19 in 14 communities in 11 countries on five continents. The age of the youth may vary across sites as each community decides for itself the most appropriate age of the young people involved. However, across all sites we are talking with youth who are making the transition to adulthood. Youth were seen as coping with adversity in different ways; some were doing well according to their communities while others were not.

All participants had experienced at least three culturally significant risk factors such as poverty, war, social dislocation, cultural genocide, violence, marginalization, drug and alcohol addiction, family breakdown, mental illness, or early pregnancy.

Adults were also asked to participate; some adults also experienced adversity and some had something important to say about these issues in their community.

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All participating youth were asked to complete a questionnaire, the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM). Some were also asked to participate in an one-on-one interview where they could talk about their lives. Adults were asked to participate in a focus group where they could talk about their lives and how they understood the challenges facing youth in their communities.

The international team members met to discuss literature and existing instruments related to youth resilience, and to speak about their communities and what challenges youth experience living there. Based on this meeting, a qualitative interview schedule was developed that researchers were to use in focus groups with adults and youth in their community. From these focus groups, each site made a list of questions that one should ask in order to understand what it takes to grow-up well in that community. These lists were compiled at 58 questions were chosen for the first version of the CYRM.

At least 2 youth from each site also participated in the qualitative component of the study. During these interviews youth were asked questions such as “what would I need to know to grow up well here” and “What does it mean to you, to your family, and to your community when bad things happen.”


The Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM) is a measure of the resources (individual, relational, communal and cultural) available to individuals that may bolster their resilience. The measure has 3 subscales accounting for personal, relational, and contextual factors implicated in resilience processes. The CRYM-28 seeks to provide a more inclusive understanding of the processes of resilience across culture and context, accounting for the heterogeneity of culture and experiences of youth.

The CYRM was originally designed for use with youth aged 9 to 23 years old. Since its initial validation, the measure has also been adapted into a 26 item version for use with children aged 5 to 9 years old, a 28 item version for use with adults (aged 24 and older) and a 28 item version used to obtain data from a person most knowledgeable (PMK) about a child/youth’s life. For all four versions of the CYRM (child, youth, adult, and PMK) a reduced resilience measure consisting of 12 items is available as well as versions offering either a 3 point response scale or 5 point response scale.

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In addition to the development of the CYRM, the team identified 7 tensions (access to material resources, relationships, identity, power and control, cultural adherence, social justice and cohesion). The findings from the IRP can be summarized as 4 propositions supported by the data:

  • Resilience has both global and culturally/contextually specific aspects.
  • Aspects of resilience exert different amounts of influence on a child’s life depending on the specific culture and context in which resilience is realized.
  • Aspects of children’s lives that contribute to resilience are related to one another in patterns that reflect a child’s culture and context.
  • How tensions between individuals and their cultures and contexts are resolved will affect the way aspects of resilience group together.

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Research Sites:

There are 14 original research sites participating in the study. Each research site was selected for the diversity it brought to understanding children and youth in high-risk environments. The following are links to information on each research site and results from the first phase of the research:

Canadian Sites
  • Sheshatshui, Labrador
    • In addition to poverty, high rates of unemployment, and isolation as a community, the Innu youth of Labrador have among the highest rates of suicide in the world; suicide is the leading cause of death for youth in Sheshatshiu. Media attention has focused on widespread and increasing addiction to solvents among the youth of Sheshatshiu (Context and risk factors provided by IRP site partners, the Sheshatshiu Innu Band Council). Parental neglect, family violence, crime, smoking, and health problems are also above national norms for youth (Sheshatshiu: An Innu community’s battle with addiction. CBC News Online, Dec. 14, 2004, from CBC Website: Despite these risks, youth (with support from their community and elders) are increasingly taking control of their rights and their futures. They are raising their voices to decry environmental atrocities by multinational corporations and government, to fight for self-determination, and to insist that their culture be brought back into community events.
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
      Youth in Halifax experience marginalization, discrimination, and violence due to sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and gender. Other threats that youth endure include: mental, emotional, and physical health problems; problems in school; inclusion in criminal activities; homelessness; childhood traumas (such as physical, mental, and sexual abuse); parental alcoholism and drug addiction; personal addiction to alcohol and drugs; early sexual behavior; and poverty (Risk factors and context information provided by the IRP site partners).
  • Two Research sites are in Winnipeg, Manitoba
      Youth in Winnipeg experience marginalization, discrimination, and violence due to sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and gender. Other threats that youth endure include: mental, emotional, and physical health problems; problems in school; inclusion in criminal activities; homelessness; childhood traumas (such as physical, mental, and sexual abuse); parental alcoholism and drug addiction; personal addiction to alcohol and drugs; early sexual behavior; and poverty (Risk factors and context information provided by the IRP site partners).
International Sites
  • Banjul, The Gambia
      Approximately 69% of the population in The Gambia lives below the poverty line (Gambia At A Glance. Unicef. Retrieved from Unicef Website November 6, 2005 from Website: Unemployment and underemployment rates are extremely high and the country relies heavily on sustained bilateral and multilateral aid (The Gambia Demographics. GE World Source. Retrieved November 6, 2005 from GE World Source Website: Other risks faced by youth in The Gambia include poverty, HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, barriers to school enrollment (particularly for girls), early marriages, and teen pregnancy.
  • Cape Town, South Africa
      Since the end of Apartheid, the government has taken steps to improve basic services; but health, housing, education, sanitation, and access to potable water pose challenges for youth. Vast disparities exist between the rich and the poor in the city, with inequalities falling largely along racial lines (South Africa At a Glance. Unicef. Retrieved November 3, 2005, from Unicef Website: (2005)). Other risk factors faced by youth in this setting include: weakening traditional, social, and extended family support systems; a dislocation between generations; gender inequality; violence; drug-related gangs; crime; and HIV/AIDS (Risk factors and context information provided by IRP site partner, Quinton Adams, at Stellenbosch University, South Africa). Nonetheless, youth in Cape Town reported feeling a sense of hope that they could rebuild their communities and successfully find employment.
  • East Jerusalem, Palestinian Occupied Territories
      After five years of the Intifada (Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation), unemployment has skyrocketed - with a total unemployment rate of 70% in the Gaza Strip and 60% in the West Bank. Since the beginning of the Intifada, more than 500 Palestinian children have been killed and 9,000 have been injured and are living with disabilities. Primary and secondary health care centers lack equipment and medical staff are subject to enforced restrictions. Many children exhibit signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which affects their ability to cope with continuing major life stressors. Daily adversities faced by youth include death and injury to family and friends, crime, poverty, malnutrition, frustration and few, imposed curfews, and home confinement (Palestinian Occupied Territories At a Glance. Unicef. Retrieved November 3, 2005 from Unicef Website:
  • Hong Kong, China
    • China, and in particular Hong Kong, has undergone sweeping demographic and social change in recent decades, and much of it has affected youth. Despite this, the Government does not have a consistent policy focusing on youth development. Enrollment levels in schools have skyrocketed; and researchers are now beginning to see the effects of stress related to school pressures in youth. Youth are choosing to marry later, but engage in sexual activity earlier. As a result, the number of abortions in Hong Kong is increasing. Other risks that youth in Hong Kong face include mental health problems and suicide, obesity and eating disorders, crime, drug abuse, and depleted health due to smoking (Risk factors obtained from: Yip, Teem-Wing (October, 2000). A sustained commitment towards youth in Hong Kong: A policy to meet their needs, acknowledge their worth and enrich their lives. Retrieved November 6, 2005 from Website:
  • Imphal, India
      Manipur has been plagued by insurgency for five decades and has been in violation of human rights across all spheres of industry and government. School children and college students routinely join, or are ironically forced to join, joint action committees protesting violations of human rights. Youth have come to accept violence as a part of their lives, and it is standard procedure to demand compensation money from the government for lives lost. As a result, youth are vulnerable to high-risk behaviors as drug users or as non-state actors in revolutionary movement(s) (All context information, risk factors and statistics provided by IRP site partners Don Bosco and Dr. Irene Salam-Singh, Department of History, Manipur University, India). Imphal provides access to children and youth living in poverty, coping with an economy in transition and confronted by sectarian violence.
  • Medellín, Colombia
      Medellin houses one the most sophisticated drug trafficking operations in the world and has been the victim of its influence (experiencing corruption, violence, insecurity, murder ing of public leaders and policemen). But perhaps the most important heritage left by drug traffickers is a dramatic change in attitudes, practices, and laws and social norms respected in the community. Increasing inequity in Medellin over the past two decades is an important factor influencing social dynamics. Some of the adversities experienced by youth in Medellin include violence, kidnapping, corruption, lack of working opportunities, unequal access to health and higher education, domestic violence, increasing unwanted adolescent pregnancy, and weak social support (Context information and risk factors obtained from IRP Site Partners in Colombia).
  • Moscow, Russia
      Russia has no national youth policy. In 2004, over 500,000 children were in state-care, attributed in part to alarming domestic violence rates, increased abandonment, and orphaning. In Moscow, thousands of youth are homeless and vulnerable to exploitation and prostitution. HIV/AIDS is a rapidly growing epidemic, but the actual number of individuals infected is unknown due to stigmatization (Russian Federation Background. Unicef. Retrieved from Unicef Website: Other risk factors faced by youth in Moscow include: poor health and communicable diseases, sexual and physical violence, high rates of suicide, and malnutrition. Despite cultural, political, and economic disintegration in Moscow, the IRP learned that youth have relied on persistence and consistency to achieve their goals and overcome adversity (Context and risk factors provided by IRP site partners at the Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia).
  • Moshi, Tanzania
      Currently, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a crisis in Tanzania and has orphaned an estimated two-million children (At a glance: United Republic of Tanzania. Unicef, Retrieved November 3, 2005 from UnicefWebsite: Stigma and denial around the disease create further challenges for youth. Other key adversities in this setting include: poverty, malnutrition, gender-based practices, low quality of education, and inadequate health and social services (Risk factors and context information provided by Project Children’s Rights Trust, Tanzania). Many children are being supported by single parents and by grandparents due to divorce, separation, and loss of parents due to HIV/AIDS.
  • Tampa, Florida
      The city of Tampa ranks 25th in the USA as one of the least safe cities, based on crime statistics (Risk factors and context information provided by IRP site partners at the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute). Vehicle theft, rapes, robbery, and aggravated assault are common. The number of children and teens killed by fi rearms in Florida in 2003 was 137, which included 86 homicides, 43 suicides, 4 accidents, and 4 of unknown intent (Florida Crime Index Rates Per 100,000 Inhabitants. The Disaster Center. Retrieved November 6, 2005 from The Disaster Center Website: Other key adversities faced by Florida youth include: mental, physical, and emotional challenges; parental neglect and abuse; and drug abuse.
  • Tel Aviv, Israel
      Despite a flourishing economy for some sectors in the city, populations living outside of the city are often marginalized and economically depressed. The proportion of children living in poverty has increased steadily, with approximately 25% of Israeli children living below the poverty line (Major Issues Facing Children and Young People in Israel. International Youth Foundation. Retrieved November 3, 2005 from International Youth Foundation Website: The issues faced by youth in Tel Aviv include poverty, child abuse and neglect, educational difficulties, and marginalization. Perhaps most pressing is the central-role that war and conflict play in the lives of Israeli youth. The effects are paramount to youth well being; many children in Israel show symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Context and risk factors provided by IRP site partner Zahava Solomon, School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University, Israel).

New sites are constantly joining the project. The map below shows the areas in which the research is being replicated:

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Each site includes a small advisory committee of two to three local individuals who can help to identify appropriate ways to access youth, help to define the construct of resilience, and oversee the ethical application of the research in their community.  These individuals are also influential in their community of service providers and act as aids for dissemination of results to practitioners and policy makers.

Principal Investigator
  • Dr. Michael Ungar - School of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
  • Dr. Linda Liebenberg - Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS,Canada
  • Dr. Wai-Man Kwong - City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  • Dr. Kathryn Levine - School of Social Work, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
  • Dr. Jean Mitchell - Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
  • Dr. Fausta Philip - Muhimbili National Hospital, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  • Dr. Zahava Solomon - School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Dr. Mary Armstrong - Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, Tampa, FL, USA
  • Dr. Roger Boothroyd - Department of Mental Health, Law and Policy, Tampa, FL, USA
  • Dr. Ann Cameron - Psychology Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Dr. Luis Duque - School of Public Health, University of Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia
  • Father Jerry Kulang Thomas - Don Brosco Provincial Office, Guwahati, Assam, India
  • Mr. Quinton Adams - Department of Educational Psychology and Specialised Education, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  • Ms. Hania Bitar - PYALARA, East- Jerusalem, Palestinian Occupied Territories
  • Ms. Angela Ifunya - Protect Children’s Rights Trust, Moshi, Tanzania
  • Dr. Ken Barter - School of Social Work, Memorial University of Newfoundland, NFL, Canada
  • Dr. Tara Callaghan - Psychology Department, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, NS, Canada
  • Dr. John LeBlanc - Departments of Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Community Health and Epidemiology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
  • Dr. Normand Carrey - Department of Psychiatry, IWK Children’s Hospital, Halifax, NS, Canada
  • Dr. Maria Cheung - School of Social Work, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
  • Dr. David Este - Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • Dr. Jane Gilgun - School of Social Work, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA
  • Dr. Nancy Heath - Faculty of Education, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • Dr. Christine Jourdan - Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • Dr. Bruce MacLaurin - Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, AB, Canada
  • Dr. Alexander Makhnach - Institute of Psychology and Psychotherapy; Institute of Psychology Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
  • Dr. Kader Musleh - Social Sciences Department, Bethlehem University, West Bank, Palestinian Occupied Territories
  • Chief Anastasia Qupee - Sheshatshiu Innu Band Council, Sheshatshiu, Labrador, Canada
  • Dr. Eli Teram - Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada
  • Dr. Victor Thiessen - Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University, NS, Canada

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Publications and Reports:

The 2006 IRP and Site Reports are now online.
New Site Reports

If you are using the CYRM and would like to include your report here, please send us your findings using this template.

Ungar, M., & Liebenberg, L. (2011). Assessing resilience across cultures using mixed methods: Construction of the child and youth resilience measure. Journal of Multiple Methods in Research, 5(2), 126-149.

Ungar, M., Brown, M., Liebenberg, L., Cheung, M. & Levine, K. (2008). Distinguishing differences in pathways to resilience among Canadian youth. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 27(1), 1-13.

Ungar, M., Brown, M., Liebenberg, L., Othman, R., Kwong, W. M., Armstrong, M. & Gilgun, J. (2007). Unique pathways to resilience across cultures. Adolescence, 42(166), 287-310.

Ungar, M., Liebenberg, L., Boothroyd, R., Kwong, W.M., Lee, T.Y., Leblanc, J., Duque, L. & Makhnach, A. (2008). The study of youth resilience across cultures: Lessons from a pilot study of measurement development. Research in Human Development.

Ungar, M., (2008). Resilience across cultures. British Journal of Social Work, 38(2), 218-235.

Ungar, M., Brown, M., Liebenberg, L., Othman, R., Kwong, W.M., Armstrong, M. & Gilgun, J. (2007). Unique pathways to resilience across cultures. Adolescence, 42(166), 287-310.

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Contact Us:

For further information on the study, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (902) 494-3050.

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