Photo by Helena Lopes

Stable, safe, nurturing relationships and environments for all kids and families can prevent abuse and help them reach their full potential.

Research shows that parents and caregivers with support (from family, friends, neighbors, and their communities) are more likely to provide healthy and safe homes for their kids. When parents shortfall this support or feel isolated, they will likely make poor decisions that can lead to abuse or neglect. 

Child maltreatment is the neglect and abuse that occurs to kids under 18. It includes all types of emotional and physical ill-treatment, neglect, sexual abuse, and commercial or other exploitation, which results in potential or actual harm to the child’s survival, health, dignity, or development in a relationship of responsibility, power, or trust. According to WHO (World Health Organization), exposure to intimate partner violence is also a form of child maltreatment. Child abuse and neglect are grave problems that can have lasting harmful effects on their victims. The aim of preventing child abuse and neglect is precise: to stop this violence from happening in the first place.

Stopping Abuse and Neglect: Protective Factor

Concerned citizens and organizations increasingly realize that the prime way to prevent child maltreatment is to help parents identify the resources they need to understand and develop the skills and meet their children’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs and protect them from harm.

On the other hand, protective factors are assets in communities and families that increase the health and well-being of kids and families. Protective factors help parents at higher risk of abusing or neglecting their children use support, resources, or coping approaches that allow them to parent constructively, even under stress. Focusing on family strengths will enable parents to develop parental skills, build resilience, and gain knowledge of resources to decrease exposure to risks.

Here are six protective factors that can prevent or lower the risk of child abuse and neglect:

#1. Attachment and nurturing. When parents and kids feel warmth and compassion for each other, parents can give positive parenting and support their children’s healthy physical, social, and emotional development.

#2. Knowledge of parenting and youth and child development. Parents who understand developmental milestones and how kids grow can provide an environment where they can live up to their potential.  

#3. Parental resilience. Emotionally resilient parents are creative problem solvers. They have a positive attitude, effectively address challenges, and less often direct frustration and anger toward their children.  

#4. Social connections. Trusted and caring family and friends can provide emotional support, encouragement, assistance to parents as they face the daily challenges of raising a family.

#5. Concrete support for parents. Parents who can provide essential resources, such as housing, food, transportation, clothing, and access to critical services like child care and mental and physical health care, can help ensure the health and well-being of their children.

#6. Emotional and social competence of kids. Parents who instill in their kids the ability to interact positively with others, control their behaviors and communicate their feelings are more likely to raise children with positive relationships with friends, family, and peers. Kids without these skills may be at greater risk for abuse. 

Thought to Ponder

Child abuse can happen in any neighborhood and any family. Studies show that child abuse crosses all boundaries of race, income, ethnic heritage, and religious affiliation. Proper prevention of child abuse and neglect requires a full-scale, all-hands-on-deck commitment from every facet of the community. Individuals, neighborhood groups, and local organizations must work together to know the signs of abuse and neglect and raise awareness of protective factors that strengthen families and mitigate the effects of maltreatment. Everyone has a role to play, and every part is essential.

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