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Using Photo-Elicitation Methods to Understand Resilience among Ultra-Poor Youth and Their Caregivers in Malawi


Barrington, Clare; Villa-Torres, Laura; Abdoulayi, Sara; Tsoka, Maxton; & Mvula, Peter M. (2017). Using Photo-Elicitation Methods to Understand Resilience among Ultra-Poor Youth and Their Caregivers in Malawi. Health Education & Behavior, 44(5), 758-768.


Unconditional cash transfer programs are a form of structural intervention to address poverty, a "fundamental cause" of disease. Such programs increasingly aim to build resilience to sustain improved outcomes and provide a solid foundation for longer term transformations. As such, there is a need to understand what resilience means in specific contexts. The goal of this formative study was to explore local experiences of resilience and vulnerability among 11 youth-caregiver dyads ( n = 22) who were beneficiaries of the Malawi Social Cash Transfer Program in Balaka district. We used a photo-elicitation approach informed by the participatory, visual methodology photovoice to guide the study and conducted an iterative content analysis using thematic coding of transcripts and photos. Participants took pictures of their daily struggles and shocks and participated in audio-recorded discussions to reflect on the photos using an adapted version of the SHOWeD method. We found that participants characterized resilience as a tireless process of using all available individual, family, and community resources at all times in pursuit of survival and well-being. In the context of daily struggles, resilience was an essential part of survival. Shocks, mostly health-related, were depicted through staged images candidly highlighting individual and environmental vulnerabilities. Community support was an essential component of resilience for both daily struggles and shocks. Using photo-elicitation methods facilitated an intergenerational, community-driven reflection on the meaning of resilience and the multilevel determinants of health in a context of extreme poverty. Findings can inform the design of resilience-focused cash transfer programs to improve health equity.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Health Education & Behavior


Barrington, Clare
Villa-Torres, Laura
Abdoulayi, Sara
Tsoka, Maxton
Mvula, Peter M.