AIMS: To clarify and delineate the concept of family resilience in the context of the chronic illness of a child. This study also investigated the concept of family resilience in relation to family functioning in order to compare and contrast family resilience and family functioning. DESIGN AND METHOD: Three phases of the hybrid model of concept development were applied: theoretical, fieldwork and final analytical. In the theoretical phase, a working definition of family resilience was developed by a literature review. The fieldwork phase comprised in-depth interviews with 11 parents with a chronically ill child, in the paediatric oncology unit of a university hospital in South Korea. The qualitative data obtained from the interviews were analysed to find attributes of family resilience. The final analytical phase compared and interpreted the findings from the theoretical and fieldwork phases in order to clarify and refine the concept of resilience. RESULTS: The definition of family resilience was of an enduring force that leads a family to change its functioning dynamics in order to solve problems encountered. Twenty-one conceptual attributes of family resilience emerging from this study were differentiated into four dimensions: (i) intrinsic family characteristics, (ii) family member orientation related to family characteristics, (iii) responsiveness to stress and (iv) external orientation. CONCLUSIONS: Family resilience is an enduring force that leads a family to change its dynamics of functioning in order to solve problems associated with stresses encountered. This conceptualization led to the development of a model of family coping that incorporates both family resilience and family functioning, as the property and as the process of change, respectively. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: In order to build a family that functions better under stress, it is necessary for nurses to focus more attention on family resilience, especially in terms of the development of intervention strategies to strengthen family resilience.