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A study (Werner Ph.D.) was carried out to investigate factors that protect children from the effects of traumatic stressors.

The study comprised 700 children who were split up into two groups:

GROUP 1:

Children identified as being at low risk of significant psychological problems in later life as a result of traumatic childhood stressors. This group comprised two-thirds of the children.

.GROUP 2:

Children identified as being at high risk of significant psychological problems in later life as a result of traumatic childhood stressors. This group comprised one-third of the children.

The one-third of children identified as high-risk were so classified because they had had to contend with childhood adversities including poverty, perinatal stress, domestic violence, and parental alcoholism.

RESULTS:

The children were followed up in later life.

Out of the group of high-risk children (GROUP 2), two-thirds went on to develop significant psychological problems in later life, as would be expected.

However, one-third of this high-risk group did NOT go on to develop significant psychological problems in later life.

The researchers, having identified these apparently resilient children, then set out to establish which factors in their lives had operated to seemingly protect them from serious adverse effects of childhood stressors and adversities that they had experienced.

Analysis of the data suggested that the following factors increased these children’s resilience.

These factors were found to fall within 3 main categories:

  • the child’s temperament.
  • whether or not the child had a significant individual in their lives who were caring and emotionally supportive (not necessarily a member of the family).
  • whether the child had a sense of belonging and camaraderie within a group in the wider community (e.g. sports club, a youth theatre group, etc).

Specific Factors That The Study Suggested Increases The Child’s Resilience:

  • having an absence of significant birth complications
  • growing up with 4 or fewer family members
  • having 2 years or more between them and their siblings’ ages
  • having fewer prolonged separations from the primary caregiver
  • having friends at school
  • being involved in more extracurricular activities
  • avoiding pregnancy too early in life
  • having parents who had an absence of significant mental health problems 
  • not living in poverty

 

REFERENCE

Werner Ph.D. The children of Kauai: Resiliency and recovery in adolescence and adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health. Volume 13, Issue 4, June 1992, Pages 262-268

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).