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Clin Psychol Rev. 2017 Mar;52:19-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2016.11.007. Epub 2016 Nov 21.

Resilience to emotional distress in response to failure, error or mistakes: A systematic review.

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School of Psychology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS29JT, UK; Bradford Institute of Health Research, Bradford Royal Infirmary, Bradford BD9 6RJ, UK. Electronic address:
NIHR School for Primary Care Research and Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. Electronic address:
School of Psychology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS29JT, UK. Electronic address:
School of Psychology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS29JT, UK. Electronic address:
School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney 2006, Australia. Electronic address:


Perceptions of failure have been implicated in a range of psychological disorders, and even a single experience of failure can heighten anxiety and depression. However, not all individuals experience significant emotional distress following failure, indicating the presence of resilience. The current systematic review synthesised studies investigating resilience factors to emotional distress resulting from the experience of failure. For the definition of resilience we used the Bi-Dimensional Framework for resilience research (BDF) which suggests that resilience factors are those which buffer the impact of risk factors, and outlines criteria a variable should meet in order to be considered as conferring resilience. Studies were identified through electronic searches of PsycINFO, MEDLINE, EMBASE and Web of Knowledge. Forty-six relevant studies reported in 38 papers met the inclusion criteria. These provided evidence of the presence of factors which confer resilience to emotional distress in response to failure. The strongest support was found for the factors of higher self-esteem, more positive attributional style, and lower socially-prescribed perfectionism. Weaker evidence was found for the factors of lower trait reappraisal, lower self-oriented perfectionism and higher emotional intelligence. The majority of studies used experimental or longitudinal designs. These results identify specific factors which should be targeted by resilience-building interventions. Resilience; failure; stress; self-esteem; attributional style; perfectionism.

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