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Resilience to violence


Admission requirements

This course is part of the Minor Violence Studies, and is open to bachelor students from all faculties. Students can also take this course as an elective course. There are no specific admission requirements, but students should be familiar with social science research or should familiarise themselves in preparation for this course.


The Covid-19 pandemic illustrates the importance of our ability to cope well with stressors, our ability to show resilience. Resilience denotes the ability of an organism to adapt to changing environments and cope with environmental challenges by shifting within its normal operating range. Resilience in humans refers to our ability to positively adapt following a stressor. Resilience arises from complex interactions of factors that reside within the body (e.g. the hormonal systems, the brain, genetic influences) as well as outside the body (e.g. family support, teaching environment, cultural resources).

In this course we will discuss the historical background of resilience and key resilience studies, we will discuss key theoretical frameworks and their implications for resilience to violence in young people. We will focus on resilience to violent experiences that occur in early life (such as childhood abuse, trauma, bullying and war). We will introduce the various definitions used to describe resilience, and how they have evolved over time in the past 50 years. We will then discuss why some children and young people who experience early life violence show resilience, whereas others do not. We do so by discussing the factors and mechanisms that are known to aid resilience and discuss all levels of the bio-ecological level including key neurobiological mechanisms (genetic profiles, brain mechanisms), psychological factors and interventions aimed at these levels. We will further discuss the critical importance of the social environment, specifically the importance of family environments, friendships with peers, the school environment and we will discuss how resilience is shaped by cultural and global efforts. In doing so we will discuss the mechanisms that aid resilience, as well as interventions that have been developed to promote resilience in young people.

Course objectives

After completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Discuss the historical and theoretical development in the resilience field with relevance to education and child studies. Have knowledge of hallmark studies and cases of resilience after trauma.

  • Discuss contemporary theoretical frameworks, such as Developmental Systems Theory, for the study of resilience

  • Discuss how early life experiences of violence make young people vulnerable in their mental health and behaviour.

  • Discuss the neurobiological mechanisms that aid resilience to early life violence, keeping in mind the differential mechanisms that aid resilience to acute vs chronic stress, or resilience in adolescence vs. childhood.

  • Discuss the implications of a complexity perspective in mechanisms of resilience.

  • Discuss the important influences that facilitate resilience from a historical/cultural/societal perspective, and what is needed to shape resilient societies.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable

Mode of instruction

8 2-hour lectures and guest lecturers in English. They outline the main concepts and illustrate them using examples from clinical and/or research practice. Scientific papers form the basis of the study material but the material from the lectures is also part of the exam literature, so attendance is highly recommended.

Assessment method

An exam consisting of multiple choice (80% of the final grade) and open questions (20% of the final grade). The exam will be based on the assigned readings, videos, podcasts and materials covered in class. You will be permitted to re-sit the exam if the calculated final grade is lower than 5,5.

This course is the responsibility of the Board of Examiners Education and Child Studies. The Course and Examination Regulations of the Bachelor Pedagogical Sciences 2023-2024 apply. The study advisers of the Institute of Education and Child Studies can be contacted by sending an email.

Reading list

Mandatory material covered in this course include:

  • Scientific and review papers.

  • Chapters from Masten, Ann S. (2015). Ordinary Magic, Resilience in Development. Guilford Press. ISBN: 9781462523719.

  • Lectures (sheets).



Before, during and after each lecture, the instructors will be available to answer theoretical and practical questions about the course. We will also open a discussions forum on Brightspace for students to discuss questions and topics related to the lecture and book materials amongst each other. All other questions about the course can be emailed to with the subject line: Question RTV.

This course is the responsibility of the Board of Examiners Education and Child Studies. The Course and Examination Regulations of the Bachelor Pedagogische Wetenschappen 2023-2024 apply.
The study advisers of the Institute of Education and Child Studies can be contacted by sending an email to


This course takes place in Leiden at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
All lectures and final exam will be in English.