Some individuals do not experience illness or psychological distress when exposed to adverse life events and hassles. Although they may experience brief distress, they generally recover (Lehrer, 2021). Researchers use the concept of hardiness to explain these outliers (Maddi, 2017; Maddi et al., 2017; Pitts et al., 2016; Stoppelbein et al., 2017). Graphic © lassedesignen/Shutterstock.com.
The hardiness concept emerged from a 12-year study of manager stress responses at the Illinois Bell Company (Maddi, 1987). Halfway through the study, their parent company's reorganization eliminated half their employees within a year. Two-thirds of the managers experienced severe stress reactions (e.g., heart attacks, depression, and suicide), and one-third thrived. The investigators concluded that the hardy managers were protected by attitudes of commitment (strong involvement), control (internal locus of control), and challenge (learning from experience and accepting change).
Hardiness involves biological (McVicar et al., 2014; Parkash et al., 2017) and social factors (Kuzman & Konopak, 2016). Longitudinal studies suggest that infants' autonomic and emotional reactivity predicts later emotional reactivity (Berry et al., 2012; Wagner et al., 2017). Less reactive infants may become more resilient. In addition, cohesiveness and social support (actual and perceived) may buffer hardy individuals against stressors. Graphic © Nina Buday/Shutterstock.com.
Summary Hardiness consists of biological and social components. Longitudinal studies suggest that infants' autonomic and emotional reactivity predicts later emotional reactivity. Learn More
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Stoppelbein, L., McRae, E., & Greening, L. (2017). A longitudinal study of hardiness as a buffer for posttraumatic stress symptoms in mothers of children with cancer. Clinical Practice in Pediatric Psychology, 5(2), 149–160. Wagner, N., Mills-Koonce, R., Willoughby, M., Propper, C., Rehder, P., & Gueron-Sela, N. (2017). Respiratory sinus arrhythmia and heart period in infancy as correlates of later oppositional defiant and callous–unemotional behaviors. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41(1), 12. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0165025415605391