Positive Mental Health and Resilience in Young People

  • Jessica M Armitage

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The ability to maintain positive functioning in the face of adversity is a concept that has interested researchers for decades. Many refer to this capacity as resilience, although there is yet to be an agreed upon definition of resilience. Some refer to resilience as a trait that permits an individual to handle and overcome stress. Others propose that resilience is a process or outcome that is attained when the necessary resources are in place. In this thesis, I conceptualise and study resilience as a process that emerges from the interaction of protective factors. I use assessments of both positive and negative mental health to determine its presence, and I investigate protective factors at both the genetic and environmental level. In doing so, I attempt to understand the factors that enable individuals exposed to peer victimisation to foster resilience. Peer victimisation occurs when an individual is repeatedly exposed to discomfort at the expense of another person’s actions. I focus in particular on experiences in adolescence as this is an important developmental period for later mental health. Overall, the research conducted in this thesis has allowed me to draw three important conclusions. The first is that genetic information can be used to predict the likelihood of experiencing peer victimisation, but is less informative about subsequent resilience. The second is that factors important for resilience after peer victimisation are likely to be in place prior to the victimisation experience. In particular, victims who hold higher perceptions of scholastic competence in childhood maintain greater wellbeing in adulthood than those lower in scholastic competence. Finally, the findings suggest that different interventions will likely be required to both reduce depressive symptoms and improve wellbeing following peer victimisation. As such, the research underscores the importance of investigating predictors of both when determining resilience. Further resilience
enquiry will also benefit from adopting a life course perspective and triangulating
results from different methodological approaches. This will be key to unveiling more about the complex and dynamic nature of resilience.
Date of Award2 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorClaire M A Haworth (Supervisor) & Oliver S Davis (Supervisor)

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