A mixture of innate talents and supportive relationships resulted in achievement and resiliency. Social learning theory suggests that resiliency, and the ability to turn negatives into positives, such as Angelous use of her difficult life as a source for literary autobiography and poetry, is not biologically based, but depends upon being exposed to social opportunities and the willingness of others to develop the subjects natural gifts.
But this ability to mine her lifes challenges may itself be partially due to a biological stress response that is more productive for individuals such as Angelou than other individuals. Resilience does not so much imply an invulnerability to stress, but rather an ability to recover from negative events: “Considerable data exists suggesting that young people functioning well under high stress often show higher levels of emotional distress compared to their low stress peers” (Olsson et al. 2003, p.3). In other words, a natural invulnerability to stress is not characteristic of resiliency so much as being able to function well under high stress levels.
Biological predispositions to positive stress conditions and social receptivity to positive influences can both explain Angelous resilience.
On one hand, had Angelou not received any exposure to the arts, literature, and dance, she might not have been able to use her considerable natural gifts. However Angelou also seems to have had a certain level of adaptivity that predisposed her to recover from an early life of abuse and a lack of emotional support. Thus biologically-based theories of stress response and social constructivist theories of social learning and adaptivity should not be viewed in isolation, but as complementary forces in interpreting Angelous improbable rise to success.
Ewart, Craig K., Randall S. Jorgensen, Edith Chen, Sonia Suchday, & Karen a. Matthews.
(2002). Measuring stress resilience and coping in vulnerable youth: The social competence interview. Psychological Assessment, 14 (3), 339 — 352. Retrieved May 9,
2010 at http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~healthpsych/EdithArticles/PA2002.pdf
Maya Angelou: Biography. Biography.com. Retrieved May 9, 2010 at http://www.biography.com/articles/Maya-Angelou-9185388?print
Olsson, Craig, Lyndal Bonda, Jane M. Burnsb, Dianne a. Vella-Brodrickc, Susan M. Sawyerd.
(2003) Adolescent resilience: a concept analysis. Journal of Adolescence, 26: 1-11.
Retrieved May 9, 2010 at http://cust.educ.ubc.ca/wstudents/TSED/Students03/SKungel/article2resiliency.pdf.