The role of power and control in children's lives: An ecological analysis of pathways toward wellness, resilience and problems

Isaac Prilleltensky, Geoffrey Nelson, Leslea Peirson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

127 Scopus citations


The literature on powerlessness, empowerment and control tends to be adult-centric and psycho-centric. It is adult-centric in that most studies deal with the experience of powerlessness in adults or interpret children's realities from an adult point of view. At the same time, the literature is quite psycho-centric in that it focuses on the emotional and cognitive dimensions of powerlessness, to the relative neglect of social and political power. The purpose of this article is to redress these biases and elucidate the role of power and control in pathways toward health, resilience and problems in children's lives. We define wellness as a satisfactory state of affairs, brought about by the acquisition and development of material and psychological resources, participation and self-determination, competence and self-efficacy. Power and control are defined as opportunities afforded by social, community, and family environments to develop these three dimensions of health and wellness. We highlight basic research which describes pathways toward wellness, resilience, and problems in life, as well as applied research on promising interventions to improve children's health and wellness. This literature is interpreted in terms of our conceptual framework that links power/control and wellness through the three dimensions that we have proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-158
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2001
Externally publishedYes



  • Children
  • Control
  • Ecological
  • Health
  • Power
  • Prevention
  • Promotion
  • Resilience
  • Wellness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Psychology

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