Individual Factors

There are a variety of critical individual protective and coping factors, or traits, that relate to a child’s resilience and ability to cope with adverse events such as maltreatment and trauma.  Many maltreated children possess some of these traits to some degree.  They include:

  • Social supports, or well-developed interpersonal skills, and the ability to secure and maintain a circle of nurturing, supportive adults. Research suggests that strong interpersonal relationships may provide the best defense in coping with stress or trauma.
  • Involvement in validating experiences. Children who participate in experiences such as art, music, outdoor activities, and volunteering, are provided opportunities for success and validation, which helps build feelings of worthiness and lessen the effects of trauma.
  • Healthy self-esteem. A good self-concept and regular experiences of positive emotions promote resistance and resilience to the effects of trauma.
  • Adaptability. Flexibility in perspective, beliefs, and emotions is a protective factor against adverse experiences.
  • Aptitude. Resourcefulness and intellectual mastery can help mitigate the effects of trauma.
  • The ability to think rationally. This ability, which enables children to make sense of the actions of others and brings logical, clear ideas about their experiences to the forefront, is a factor in mitigating trauma.
  • Positive temperament. A positive temperment provides the ability to see things in as favorable a light as possible and helps children cope with the effects of trauma.
  • Positive beliefs about the world. Children who perceive the world as fair, safe, and predictable are generally better able to withstand the effects of trauma.
  • Degree of mastery and autonomy. When children feel that they have a sense of power and control over their lives, they can better deal with traumatic events.

It is important to remember that these protective factors interact differently in different children, and that some trauma-affected children can function fairly competently in some social and emotional areas but not in others.