The protective factors are an important part of the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework for preventing child abuse and neglect. Teaching these protective factors to families helps them to become more resilient and have been shown to help reduce instances of child abuse and neglect.
The five protective factors at the heart of the model are:
- Parental Resilience
- Social Connections
- Knowledge of Parenting & Child Development
- Concrete Support in Times of Need
- Social and Emotional Competence of Children
Resilience has to do with the emotional well-being of the parent and the parent’s ability to bounce back when challenges arise. A resilient parent is one who can encounter stress or a stumbling block, but know they are capable of handling it, solving the problem, and moving forward. The ability to remain hopeful and positive is the foundation of resiliency.
When parents can stay calm and positive in the face of a challenge, their children also may learn these qualities and become resilient adults.
Parenting can feel isolating at times, especially for parents who are raising children on their own. Many parents feel they have little support, which can result in feelings of being overwhelmed.
When parents lack a strong support network, such as limited family or friends nearby who can lend a hand, and have to fend for themselves, children’s well-being can be at risk simply because the parent can’t meet all of the child’s needs alone.
When parents can build social connections that provide them with support — whether it’s childcare, rides to the doctor, or just someone to talk to — both parent's and children’s lives and well-being are improved. Evidence shows that children’s learning, development and wellness are positively affected when their parent is resilient and connected.
Knowledge of Parenting & Child Development
No one is handed their infant and suddenly becomes an expert on parenting. Every parent has questions about whether their child’s development is progressing the way it should. Are they walking or talking soon enough? Should they be toilet training yet?
Understanding the different stages of child development can help a parent with these types of questions — but also more difficult ones, like those related to challenging behaviors as children grow and test boundaries.
When parents understand the range for normal child development, it helps to set realistic expectations for their children — that not every child is the same, and not all respond to the same types of parenting tactics. Parents benefit from learning alternative options for responding to their children, so they have other methods to try when something they thought was tried-and-true just doesn’t work.
Concrete Support in Times of Need
Everyone knows when there’s a fire, you call 9-1-1. But when a crisis strikes your family, do you know who to call to access community resources?
Some parents don’t know where they can go when a crisis happens. They may know “Call 9-1-1” for a life-threatening emergency, but there may be other just as critical times when they need someone, but have no idea who to call or how to ask for help without feeling judged — like when there’s nothing to put on the dinner table because the parent lost a job, or when mom needs to get herself and the children away from an abusive situation.
Making parents aware of community resources and how to access them helps give families a safety net for when a crisis arises. Then they become better equipped to meet their families’ needs and less likely to become overwhelmed in an emergency.
Social and Emotional Competence of Children
The social and emotional competence of children involves the children’s ability to form positive relationships with adults and other children. It’s their ability to understand how to act in social situations, how to form attachments to other people, and to experience, regulate, and express their feelings in healthy ways.
When children lack this knowledge — they don’t understand the behavior expected of them in social situations or how to regulate emotions like frustration — they can be at greater risk for abuse. By helping children to become socially and emotionally competent, the risk for abuse is reduced.
Get Training in the Five Protective Factors
Through the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund’s partnership with the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds, our partners can access training resources in the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework to help you integrate these components into your practices with families in your community. Check out their website to take online courses related to each protective factor.