Resilience and well-being in developing countries

Laura Camfield, J Allister McGregor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

39 Citations (Scopus)


The study of international development has historically been concerned with the material wealth of nations. Where it has focused on the people of developing nations, it has tended to be concerned with what they lack in material terms. This is hardly surprising;, as a feature of our modern and wealthy world is the persistence of extreme poverty and widening global inequality. The publication of the first Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1990 was an important signal to academics and practitioners in international development to pay more attention to development’s human dimensions, as was the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. Although there has been much progress in this direction, this chapter seeks to stimulate further debate over how we can conceptualize and study “human development.” In particular, it considers how a notion of human development, that recognizes the importance of the interplay between the material and cognitive dimensions of people’s well-being, might contribute to our understanding of resilience in populations at risk globally. The Research Group on Wellbeing in Developing Countries (WeD) at the University of Bath is carrying out detailed empirical research in four developing countries, whose per capita incomes range from $668 to $6,402 per annum (2002 figures, US $ at purchasing power parity). These compare to an average of $34,142 and $23,509 per annum for the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively. However, these figures tell us remarkably little about how people struggle, survive, and even thrive in these different developing country contexts. The research employs a conception of well-being that seeks to encompass the material, relational, and cognitive dimensions of development. It conceives of people as constrained but active agents, involved in the ongoing social and cultural construction of well-being for themselves and their communities. We argue that this broadening of our conception of human development can provide us with a means of better understanding the persistence of “ill being” (or the more narrowly defined condition of “poverty”) in many countries of the developing world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook for Working with Children and Youth: Pathways to Resilience Across Cultures and Contexts
EditorsMichael Ungar
PublisherSage Publications
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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