top of page

Trait Resilience

This has been given various labels such as “benefit finding,” (Tomich & Helgeson, 2004) and “post-traumatic growth,” (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996) each of which can be assessed with scales that measure aspects of growth (e.g. Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996; and Benefit Finding Scale; Tomich & Helgeson, 2004.). For a helpful overview on benefit finding and post-traumatic growth, see Lechner, Tennen, and Affleck (2009). Here, we describe measurement options for the concept of trait resilience.

Certain traits confer resilient responses to stressors. There are also dynamic processes over time that can promote resilient responses. Given the multidimensional complexity of the construct of psychological resilience, and multiple ways to measure resilient responses over time, this summary focuses narrowly on the former: trait-like protective factors, which can include individual traits (e.g. optimism, adaptive coping, personal competence, self-efficacy, and self-enhancement) and individual resources (e.g., family cohesion, social support, and cultural influences) (Ahern et al., 2006; Windle, Bennett, & Noyes, 2011). While there is no identified “gold standard” measure of resilience, we present five of the most commonly used self-report scales that assess personal characteristics and trait-like variables shown to predict outcomes of recovery or return to baseline in both clinical and non-clinical adult populations. These scales are considered one-dimensional in that each generates a total score that identifies resilience as a personal modifiable characteristic (Prince-Embury, Saklofske, & Vesely, 2015).

The Resilience Scale (RS) is a widely used 25-item scale that measures resilience as an accumulation of personal strengths and positive adaptation to stressful events (Wagnild & Young, 1993). The RS was designed to measure what the authors regarded as “the Resilience Core”, five core characteristics of resilience: Purpose, Equanimity, Self-Reliance, Perseverance, and Existential Aloneness. Rated on a 7-point response scale (1 = disagree; 7 = agree), the RS was originally validated with older adults and has since been used with a variety of ages including teens and young adults (Santos et al., 2013). The RS has demonstrated a significant inverse relationship with indices of psychological distress (e.g. depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress) and positive correlations with measures of well-being (e.g. self-esteem and self-efficacy). The scale has been extensively evaluated in clinical populations with cancer (Cohen, Baziliansky, & Beny, 2014), menopausal symptoms (Pérez-López et al., 2014), and mental illness (Aiena et al., 2015), to name a few. Sample items include “I can get through difficult times,” “I am determined,” and “I take things in stride.” The scale has shown high construct validity with α ranging from .87 to .95. Shorter versions of the scale, RS-14 and RS-10 (for children), also have solid psychometric properties with strong correlations to the original 25-item scale (r = .97) and internal consistency reliability of α = .93 (Pritzker & Minter, 2014). Overall, the RS has proven useful in a variety of purposes including psychosocial intervention evaluation and clinical assessment.

Permission and location: For permission to use the Resilience Scale (RS) go to:

The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC) is a 25-item scale that has been commonly used to assess resilience in non-clinical trauma survivors and clinical populations suffering from post-traumatic stress and other psychiatric disorders (Connor & Davidson, 2003), with responses rated on a 5-point scale (0 = not true at all; 4 = true nearly all of the time). The CD-RISC demonstrates strong internal consistency reliability, α = .89 and has shown significant negative correlations with the Perceived Stress Scale and positive associations with measures of social functioning suggesting that greater resilience is related to lower levels of stress and greater social support. The CD-RISC has been used to evaluate resilience training interventions (Mealer et al., 2014), where improvements are typically found suggesting that it is a malleable trait. In clinical populations, the CD-RISC has been useful as an outcome measure and predictor of treatment effect in pharmacological trials (Vaishnavi, Connor, & Davidson, 2007) and psychosocial interventions such as cognitive behavior therapy (Davidson et al., 2005). Sample items include, “I am not easily discouraged by failure,” and “I take pride in my achievements.” From a trait perspective, it is posited that the CD-RISC could function as a tool to assess resilience characteristics (e.g. hardiness) as a protective factor in clinical populations (Connor & Davidson, 2003). In general, the CD-RISC has utility in measuring resilience as a quantifiable outcome predictive of global health status and trait-like resistance to trauma exposure.

Permission and location: For permission to use the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC) go to:

The Brief Resilience Scale (BRS) is a 6-item scale developed to provide a brief assessment of recovery from illness or psychological pathology in non-clinical populations (Smith et al., 2008). The scale has been tested with a wide range of participants including healthy college students and adults, patients experiencing chronic health-related stressors (e.g. cardiac rehabilitation), and non-clinical populations facing life adversities (e.g. job-related stress) (Prince-Embury, Saklofske, & Vesely, 2015). The authors purport that the BRS is the only scale that measures the most basic definition of resilience, an individual’s capacity to “bounce back” from stress-related adversity (Smith et al., 2013). Not to be confused with the 25-item RS (Wagnild & Young, 1993), this scale, rated on a 5-point scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree), specifically assesses the ability to recover from rather than resist illness. With strong internal consistency reliability, α = .95, convergent validity of the BRS is demonstrated by positive correlations with personal and social resources (resilience resources) typically associated with resilience as a process outcome (e.g. active coping, mindfulness, optimism, and social support). Sample items include, “I tend to bounce back quickly after hard times,” “I tend to take a long time to get over set-backs in my life (reverse scored),” and “It does not take me long to recover from a stressful event.” Studies might find the BRS useful as a predictor of treatment effect in longitudinal interventions targeting “resilience resources.” The scale provides a summary score that predicts health outcomes and specifically measures (1) psychological recovery during illness and (2) change in psychological pathology (anxiety, depression, negative affect).

Permission and location: Contact the scale author for permission to use the BRS.

The Resilience Scale for Adults (RSA) (Friborg et al., 2003) is a 37-item scale that measures resilience as healthy adaptation and personal competence during exposure to significant adversity, trauma, or stress. Similar to Wagnild and Young’s Resilience Scale (RS), the RSA assesses resilience as a construct of interpersonal protective factors (e.g. personal competence, social competence, family coherence, social support, and personal structure) with a total score calculated as a combination of each factor. Examples of factor content include trait measures of self-efficacy and self-confidence, positive affect, ability to organize and plan, and the availability of stable social support both given and received (Friborg et al., 2005). Sample items include, “I believe in my own abilities,” “At hard times, I know that better times will come,” and “I have some close friends/family members who really care about me.” Each factor individually demonstrated strong internal consistency reliability with a Cronbach’s alpha ranging from .90 to .67. Convergent validity was demonstrated with positive correlations with the Sense of Coherence Scale (Antonovsky, 1993) a self-report measure designed to assess the interaction between stressors, coping, and health leading to a global perspective of the stressor as comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful. The RSA has been useful as a cross-cultural assessment of protective factors in both clinical and non-clinical populations with higher scores indicating higher levels of protective resilience.

Permission and location: Contact the scale author for permission to use the RSA scale.

Author(s) and Reviewer(s):

Prepared by Nikko Da Paz, PhD and Kimberly Lockwood, PhD. Review by editors is currently underway. If you have any comments or questions on these measures, email Version date: December 2017.



Ahern, N. R., Kiehl, E. M., Lou Sole, M., & Byers, J. (2006). A review of instruments measuring resilience. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 29, 103-125.


Aiena, B. J., Baczwaski, B. J., Schulenberg, S. E., & Buchanan, E. M. (2015). Measuring resilience with the RS–14: A tale of two samples. Journal of Personality Assessment, 97, 291-300.

Antonovsky, A. (1993). The structure and properties of the sense of coherence scale. Social Science & Medicine, 36, 725-733.

Bonanno, G. A. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist, 59, 20.

Cohen, M., Baziliansky, S., & Beny, A. (2014). The association of resilience and age in individuals with colorectal cancer: an exploratory cross-sectional study. Journal of Geriatric Oncology, 5, 33-39.

Connor, K. M., & Davidson, J. R. (2003). Development of a new resilience scale: The Connor‐Davidson resilience scale (CD‐RISC). Depression and Anxiety, 18, 76-82.

Davidson, J. R., Payne, V. M., Connor, K. M., Foa, E. B., Rothbaum, B. O., Hertzberg, M. A., & Weisler, R. H. (2005). Trauma, resilience and saliostasis: effects of treatment in post-traumatic stress disorder. International Clinical Psychopharmacology, 20, 43-48.

Friborg, O., Barlaug, D., Martinussen, M., Rosenvinge, J. H., & Hjemdal, O. (2005). Resilience in relation to personality and intelligence. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 14, 29-42.

Friborg, O., Hjemdal, O., Rosenvinge, J. H., & Martinussen, M. (2003). A new rating scale for adult resilience: What are the central protective resources behind healthy adjustment? International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 12, 65-76.

Lechner, S. C., Tennen, H., & Affleck, G. (2009). Benefit-finding and growth. In C. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (2 ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Mealer, M., Conrad, D., Evans, J., Jooste, K., Solyntjes, J., Rothbaum, B., & Moss, M. (2014). Feasibility and acceptability of a resilience training program for intensive care unit nurses. American Journal of Critical Care, 23, e97-e105.

Pérez-López, F. R., Pérez-Roncero, G., Fernández-Iñarrea, J., Fernández-Alonso, A. M., Chedraui, P., Llaneza, P., & Group, M. R. (2014). Resilience, depressed mood, and menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women. Menopause, 21, 159-164.

Prince-Embury, S., Saklofske, D. H., & Vesely, A. K. (2015). Measures of resiliency. In G. J. Boyle, D. H. Saklofske & G.

Matthews (Eds.), Measures of personality and social psychological constructs (pp. 290-321). London, UK: Elsevier.

Pritzker, S., & Minter, A. (2014). Measuring adolescent resilience: An examination of the cross-ethnic validity of the RS-14. Children and Youth Services Review, 44, 328-333.

Santos, F. R. M., Bernardo, V., Gabbay, M. A., Dib, S. A., & Sigulem, D. (2013). The impact of knowledge about diabetes, resilience and depression on glycemic control: a cross-sectional study among adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, 5, 55.

Smith, B. W., Dalen, J., Wiggins, K., Tooley, E., Christopher, P., & Bernard, J. (2008). The brief resilience scale: Assessing the ability to bounce back. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 15, 194-200.

Smith, B. W., Epstein, E. M., Ortiz, J. A., Christopher, P. J., & Tooley, E. M. (2013). The foundations of resilience: what are the critical resources for bouncing back from stress? In S. Prince-Embury & D. H. Saklofske (Eds.), Resilience in children, adolescents, and adults (pp. 167-187). New York, NY: Springer.

Southwick, S. M., Bonanno, G. A., Masten, A. S., Panter-Brick, C., & Yehuda, R. (2014). Resilience definitions, theory, and challenges: interdisciplinary perspectives. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5, 25338.

Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9, 455-471.

Tomich, P. L., & Helgeson, V. S. (2004). Is finding something good in the bad always good? Benefit finding among women with breast cancer. Health Psychology, 23, 16.

Vaishnavi, S., Connor, K., & Davidson, J. R. (2007). An abbreviated version of the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC), the CD-RISC2: Psychometric properties and applications in psychopharmacological trials. Psychiatry Research, 152, 293-297.

Wagnild, G. M., & Young, H. M. (1993). Development and psychometric evaluation of the Resilience Scale. Journal of Nursing Measurement.

Windle, G., Bennett, K. M., & Noyes, J. (2011). A methodological review of resilience measurement scales. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 9, 8.

The concept of resilience describes a highly complex and multi-level construct. A person is thought to be resilient if they “bounce back” to their baseline level of functioning in the face of significant stress, trauma, adversity, or threat (Southwick et al., 2014). Resilience can further include going beyond baseline capacities and developing stronger resources or achieving benefits as a result of stress exposure (Bonanno, 2004).

brief resilience scale
bottom of page