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Linda Theron

I explore why and how South African youth, who have been placed at risk for negative life outcomes, resile. In our social ecology many young South Africans are placed at risk by multiple challenges (think of poverty, HIV&AIDS, child-headed households, escalating divorce rates, ineffective schooling, and so forth). These challenges are likely to remain with us for many years to come, and so it is imperative that we learn more about how and why some young people beat these odds. This knowledge will support parents, schools, communities, elders and leaders, service providers, mental health professionals – in short those who care and should care about youth – to partner with youth towards positive adjustment. More particularly, we need to understand how South African communities and youth define resilience, and how our youths’ processes of resilience are embedded in local culture. The bulk of resilience theory has originated in non-African contexts – dare we assume that western theories explain local youth resilience completely? Thus, an understanding of how South African youths’ resilience mechanisms are similar to and distinct from those that are reported in the western literature is crucial in order that we can partner with youth towards resilience in ways that celebrate indigenous resilience processes.