A narrative study of resilience in physically abused people

Kirke H. Olson (1992)

This study considers resilient individuals who have done well after a life that has included child physical abuse. The study is qualitative in nature and uses a narrative interview procedure. Each of the six participants (three male and three female) were chosen by assessing their level of resilience by self-report instruments measuring their lack of pathology, level of coping resources as well as the severity of their abuse. Through the narrative interview process, the participants were assisted in developing their own narratives of their experience of resilience after abuse. In addition to the rich contextual narratives participants provided, the results of the study indicate that resilient people see themselves as being in an ongoing process of health and growth rather than having arrived at a static state of health and this allows them a high level of self acceptance. Also, the participants indicated: that relationships to others during and after the abuse were helpful; that fantasies engaged in at the time of the abuse were positive and became themes for later life; that areas of high achievement at the time of the abuse offered a constructive way to escape the abuse and the high achievement continued into adult life; that the cause of the abuse was seen as external to both abuser and victim; that participants had both positive and negative feelings about their abusers; that they found other sources for self-assessment than their own families; that they felt they had been abused more than they could actually remember including their memory of the age of onset of the abuse; and, that, when describing the ending of the abuse, they demonstrated an internal locus of control. The implications of the use of the narrative as a research tool for the study of clinically related issues was also discussed.