According to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are certain risk factors that can lead to child abuse or neglect. These risk factors can include poverty, lack of support networks, and exposure to violence. To combat these risks, it is important to take proactive steps in promoting protective factors for children in our communities. Keeping children safe and protected is a top priority for parents and guardians. This blog explores the six protective factors outlined by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, that can help families create strong, safe environments for their children. We will discuss how these protective factors work, how to teach them to your children, and why they are so important in helping prevent child abuse and neglect.
Research shows that babies who receive affection and nurturing from their parents have the best chance of healthy development. A child’s relationship with a consistent, caring adult in the early years is associated later in life with better academic grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions, and an increased ability to cope with stress.
There is extensive research linking healthy child development to effective parenting. Children thrive when parents provide not only affection but also respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations, and safe opportunities that promote independence. Successful parenting fosters psychological adjustment, helps children succeed in school, encourages curiosity about the world, and motivates children to achieve.
Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well an occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. Multiple life stressors, such as a family history of abuse or neglect, health problems, marital conflict, or domestic or community violence—and financial stressors, such as unemployment, poverty, and homelessness—may reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.
Parents and caregivers with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves compared with those who do not have such a network. All caregivers need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice, or concrete support. Research has shown that parents who are isolated and have few social connections are at higher risk for maltreating their children.
Partnering with parents to identify and access resources in the community may help prevent the stress that sometimes precipitates child maltreatment. Providing concrete supports may also help prevent the unintended neglect that sometimes occurs when parents are unable to provide for their children.
Parents support healthy social and emotional development in children when they model how to express and communicate emotions effectively, self-regulate, and make friends. A child’s social and emotional competence is crucial to sound relationships with family, adults, and peers. Conversely, delayed social-emotional development may obstruct healthy relationships. Early identification of such delays and early assistance for children and parents can provide support for family relationships and sustain positive and appropriate development.
When it comes to protecting children and promoting their well-being, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each child has unique needs that can be met through different approaches. However, these protective factors can be implemented in a child’s environment to help them develop the resilience they need to cope with life’s challenges. By exploring the following resources, we can gain valuable insight into how we can create environments where children can flourish and reach their full potential.
- Helping Caregivers Foster Secure Attachment in Young Children
- Positive Parenting Tips
- Engaging Resilience: How Responsive Caregiving Lays the Foundation for Children to Thrive
- Be Strong Families Café Trainings