Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 855-OH-CHILD

The Power To Make a Difference for Children

Children’s lives are shaped by their experiences, their environment, and the relationships they have with parents, teachers, and other caregivers. Healthy relationships and environments protect children from adverse experiences and help ensure long-term health and well-being.

Protective and Risk Factors That Impact Children

According to research, multiple risk and protective factors at every level–society, community, family, and child­–contribute to the probability of whether or not child abuse and/or neglect will occur. To clarify:

Community and Neighborhood
Parents and Family

Society Protective Factors

  • Concrete supports (Selected federal income supports to vulnerable families)
  • Policies that provide supports that families need
  • Research and advancement in neuroscience/brain architecture and understanding of ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences)

Society Risk Factors

  • Poverty and deprivation of basic needs
  • Lack of collective (shared) responsibilities for children
  • Low level of importance to politicians/lack of political will
  • Culture of individualism and individual responsibility; punitive system for those who need support and assistance
  • Lack of standards/clarity on adequate parenting and parental behaviors

Community Protective Factors

  • Adequate resources to meet community needs
  • Community norming of acceptable parenting behaviors
  • Social connections and cohesion
  • Quality public transportation
  • High-quality pre-and post-natal programs
  • Quality child care
  • Communities of faith and interest groups for belonging

Community Risk Factors

  • Impoverished neighborhood
  • Environment problems
    • Neighborhood violence
    • High crime
    • Unemployment
    • Social isolation
    • Poor schools
    • High mobility
    • No safe place for child play
    • Inadequate housing and homelessness
  • Inadequate/non-existent social support and cohesion

Parents & Family Protective Factors

  • Knowledge of parenting and child development (Early childhood education)
  • Capacity/willingness to nurture and attach to child
  • Parental resilience (hope)
  • Physical, emotional and economic well-being
  • Faith and spirituality
  • Healthy partner relationship

Parents & Family Risk Factors

  • Material hardship/economic insufficiency
    • Housing instability
    • Under-or unemployment
    • Food insufficiency
  • Situational or enduring problems
    • Mental health/maternal depression
    • Substance abuse
    • Interpersonal family violence
    • Caregiver history of adversity or trauma
    • Apathy/hopelessness

Child Protective Factors

  • Nurturing and Attachment
  • Social and emotional competence
  • Resilience
  • “Easy Child” Temperament

Child Risk Factors

  • Child vulnerability
    • Young age
    • Poor health
    • Behavioral challenges
    • Developmental demands
    • Poor or challenging attachment
    • Physical or mental health disabilities
  • Many children/closely spaced together
  • Unmet basic needs
  • Difficult temperament/temperamental mismatch with caregiver

Source: National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds

Ways to Take Action

Take steps to ensure a healthy environment for children.

Whether you are a parent, caregiver, or other adult, there are simple steps you can take to protect children from abuse and provide nurturing relationships.

Offer your child love and attention

Nurture your child, listen, and be involved in his or her life to develop trust and good communication.

Don’t respond in anger

If you feel overwhelmed, take a break and remember what’s important before interacting with your child.

Encourage your child to tell you if there’s a problem

A supportive family environment and social networks can foster your child’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Don’t take out your anger on your child

Talk with your doctor or therapist about ways you can learn to cope with stress and better interact with your child.

Know who is watching your child

Supervision is a critical part of keeping children safe, so you should always know who your child is with and where he or she is.

Empower your child to stay safe

There is no foolproof way to protect children from situations that are unsafe or uncomfortable. As they grow older and more independent, it is important to teach children skills to keep them safe.