Development and Psychopathology

Special Section Articles

Resilience in developmental psychopathology: Contributions of the Project Competence Longitudinal Study

Ann S. Mastena1 c1 and Auke Tellegena1

a1 University of Minnesota


Contributions of the Project Competence Longitudinal Study (PCLS) to resilience science and developmental psychopathology are highlighted in this article. Initiated by Norman Garmezy, the PCLS contributed models, measures, and methods, as well as working definitions of concepts like competence, developmental tasks, protective factors, and resilience. Findings from the study corroborated the feasibility of studying adaptation in a normative group of school children, identifying patterns of resilience, competence without major adversity, and maladaptive paths through life. Competence was multidimensional, showing continuity and change over time. Cascading effects across domains indicated that competence and problems spread over time. Thus, adult achievements in developmental tasks were rooted in childhood and adolescence. Young people who showed resilience had much in common with similarly successful peers who experienced less adversity over time, including high-quality relationships with parents and other adults, and good cognitive, as well as social–emotional, skills. Maladaptive youth in the study often faced high adversity with little adaptive capacity (internal or external) and tended to generate stressful experiences. Resilience often emerged in childhood and endured, but there also were late bloomers whose lives turned around in the transition to adulthood. The role of collaboration and mentorship in the PCLS is also discussed.

(Online publication April 17 2012)


This article describes the Project Competence Longitudinal Study (PCLS), which was initiated by our dear friend, mentor, and collaborator, Norman Garmezy. The PCLS was the product of many cooks, including a remarkable set of graduate and undergraduate students who worked together with us and Norm over many years to design and execute this study. It also would not have been possible without the enduring support of the Minneapolis Public Schools in helping us recruit the families and the families themselves, who have shared their lives through time to help others understand pathways through life, including all the bumps along the road as well as the achievements. This study also required extended funding support from multiple sources, for which we are extremely grateful. Primary funders included the William T. Grant Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, and the University of Minnesota.