Family and Environmental Factors

Unlike a child's individual factors, which are protective and coping factors intrinsic to the child, family and environmental protective and coping factors refer to factors that are generally outside of the child's control, such as the available extended support network.  These factors, which relate to a child’s resilience and ability to withstand trauma, include:

  • Positive attachment and connections to emotionally supportive and competent adults within the family or community. Parents or other significant adults who can provide emotional support and understanding can significantly increase a child's ability to cope effectively with trauma.
  • Socioeconomic resources. Children from families with adequate resources are much more likely to have fewer stressors than children from families with inadequate resources, and it is also likely that parents with adequate resources will be more able to provide support and resources that children need to mitigate trauma.
  • Ties to extended family. These ties can provide a child with additional supportive resources from a trusted network of adults and help mitigate the effects of trauma.
  • Caregiver/parental capacity to provide the child with a secure base and a secure attachment relationship. A child with a secure attachment will have more cognitive and emotional resources for dealing with trauma than a child with insecure attachments.
  • Caregivers/parents who are able to effectively manage their own response to the child’s trauma. Caregivers who stay calm, supportive of the child, and focused on meeting the child’s needs rather than their own provide an important defense against the negative effects of the child's trauma.
  • Caregivers/parents who believe and validate the child’s experience. Knowing that someone understands and cares about what has happened to them greatly increases the child’s ability to cope with adversity.
  • Availability of community supports. Accessible community social organizations that promote healthy child development are valuable resources to children dealing with adverse situations.
  • Communities that send a clear message of behavior and events that are acceptable. Children and caregivers who recognize clear boundaries of acceptable and non-acceptable behavior feel more supported in dealing with trauma.

These family and environmental protections help mitigate the effects of maltreatment and trauma experiences for a child.  However, like individual protections, the family and community supports are present in different degrees for different children, and their interplay in a specific child is complex and varied.