The Five Protective Factors
Parenting is not easy. It can be wonderful and stressful all at the same time. Combining the responsibilities of parenting with the responsibilities and stresses of daily life can become overwhelming at times. Parents who recognize the stresses and challenges along with the joys of parenting can work to reduce the stresses and problems and increase the fun and joy that come from raising the next generation.
Scientists have identified five protective factors, that when present in families and communities, can increase the health and well being of families. These factors serve as buffers from the stresses of life and identify ways that parents can find support and coping strategies. Research has also shown that in families where the five protective factors are present, lower incidence of child abuse and neglect occurs.
The first protective factor is parental resilience. Parents who are resilient can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well as the occasional crisis. These parents have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well
The next protective factor is the parent’s knowledge of child development and their parenting skills.
When children are born, parents do not magically become knowledgeable about child development and have all of the skills they need. There is lots of parenting information out there. Parents can learn as their child grows. Children thrive when parents provide affection, respectful communication, listening, consistent rules and expectations and a safe environment.
The third protective factor is concrete support for parents. Just as parents need to learn about parenting and children, they also need support from others and the community to meet their basic needs. All families have basic needs for food, clothing, housing, health care, mental health care, and childcare. Parents who don’t have to worry about basic needs are better able to ensure the safety and well being of their children.
Another protective factor is social connections. Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, neighbors and community find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Most parents need someone they can call on when they need a sympathetic listener, advice or support.
The last protective factor is the social and emotional competence of children. Children’s early experiences of being nurtured and developing a positive relationship with a caring adult affects all aspects of their behavior and development. Research shows that babies who receive affection and nurturing from 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 grades in school, healthier behaviors, and an increased ability to cope with stress.
How do parents ensure that these five protective factors are present? When parents focus on improving their own coping skills, their resilience and ability to deal with problems increases. Taking the time to learn about child development by reading, attending parenting classes and talking to child development professionals will increase a parent’s knowledge, skills and confidence about raising children. Finding concrete support and social connections in the community will help parents have the services, supplies and emotional support they need to provide a stable and safe environment for their children. Parents who can increase their own skills and support systems will be able to give their children those positive early experiences that will set the child up for success in life.
There are lots of resources at Cooperative Extension to help parents achieve their goal of raising a successful child. We have information on child development, and also offer parenting classes to give parents tools to help with challenging child behaviors.
For more information, call Vance County Cooperative Extension at252-438-8188.
For more information about the five protective factors , visit the www.Preventchildabusenc.org website.