I expect to be writing a series of posts about my explorations into what experts seem to call PROTECTIVE FACTORS.   These factors appear to be the supporting tree trunk for what these experts refer to as RESILIENCY within infants, children, families, adults and societies.  I will be studying information such as that presented on this post so that I can think more clearly about the conditions in the bigger picture that existed within my severely abusive home of origin.

How did my parents’ 6 children survive and grow into fine human beings?  How did I, the chosen target child for my mentally ill mother’s ongoing pervasive and terrible abuse not only survive, but NOT abuse my own children?

There MUST have been some Protective Factors in our family.  I need to know what they were and how LACK of many of these factors must have powerfully interacted with the Protective Factors that WERE present. At first glance at the information presented below I cannot begin to imagine that the family I grew up in had ANY of these factors present — and yet some combination of them MUST have been there.  This study of mine on this topic will take some time!!

So, here is my beginning —


A child welfare site offers this:  what are the protective factors?

The five Protective Factors are the foundation of the Strengthening Families approach. Extensive evidence supports the common-sense notion that when these Protective Factors are present and robust in a family, the likelihood of abuse and neglect diminish. Research also shows that these are the factors that create healthy environments for the optimal development of all children.

Parental Resilience

No one can eliminate stress from parenting, but building parental resilience can affect how a parent deals with stress.  Parental resilience is the ability to constructively cope with and bounce back from all types of challenges.  It is about creatively solving problems, building trusting relationships, maintaining a positive attitude, and seeking help when it is needed.

Social Connections

Friends, family members, neighbors, and other members of a community provide emotional support and concrete assistance to parents.  Social connections help parents build networks of support that serve multiple purposes: they can help parents develop and reinforce community norms around childrearing, provide assistance in times of need, and serve as a resource for parenting information or help solving problems.  Because isolation is a common risk factor for abuse and neglect, parents who are isolated need support in building positive friendships.

Concrete Support in Times of Need

Parents need access to the types of concrete supports and services that can minimize the stress of difficult situations, such as a family crisis, a condition such as substance abuse, or stress associated with lack of resources.  Building this Protective Factor is about helping to ensure the basic needs of a family, such as food, clothing, and shelter, are met, and well as connecting parents and children to services, especially those that have a stigma associated with them, like domestic violence shelter or substance abuse counseling, in times of crisis.

Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

Having accurate information about raising young children and appropriate expectations for their behavior help parents better understand and care for children.  It is important that information is available when parents need it, that is, when it is relevant to their life and their child. Parents whose own families used harsh discipline techniques or parents of children with developmental or behavior problems or special needs require extra support in building this Protective Factor.

Social and Emotional Competence of Children

A child’s ability to interact positively with others, to self-regulate, and to effectively communicate his or her emotions has a great impact on the parent-child relationship.  Children with challenging behaviors are more likely to be abused, so early identification and work with them helps keep their development on track and keeps them safe.  Also, children who have experienced or witnessed violence need a safe environment that offers opportunities to develop normally.


There is a pdf file from Strengthening Families through Early Care and Education at this link that describes how their programs are designed to help families build these five protective factors into their lives and into their family.


From the Child Welfare Information Gateway website –

Risk & Protective Factors

Find research on the risk factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect, including characteristics of parents or caregivers, families, children, and communities that increase risk. Also find research on protective factors that promote safe and supportive families and resilience in children.

Risk and Protective Factors for Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Across the Life Cycle (PDF – 193 KB)
National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2009)
Lists risk and protective factors at the individual, family, and school/community levels for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and conduct disorders.

Related Topics

Preventing child abuse & neglect
Responding to child abuse & neglect


Note:  If the two active links in the first paragraph of this post go dormant and are no longer active – please just Google search those terms to find information — using Protective Factors in one search and Resiliency in another search.



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