Protective Factors: Measuring Family and Parental Success

Author:  Kathie Graydon

Every business has a process for measuring their success.  Car dealerships look at how many cars they sell. Schools know they succeed when their students get good grades and graduate.  Police departments count tickets….oh, wait, no, that one is just a myth! All teasing aside, we know police departments, too, have many different data points to make sure our communities are safe, such as crime statistics, response times to emergencies, etc.

In the business of supporting families and helping them be successful, we, too, have a way to measure whether families are successful. Gone are the days where we look for a family’s failure and compare them to other families to determine how successful they are.

Scientists have worked for years to identify what factors make families successful. We call these protective factors.

The reality is that every family struggles every now and then. Our communities need to focus on how we can build in protective factors for every family, because after all, strong healthy families result in healthy and strong communities.

Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. These attributes serve as buffers, helping parents to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress. (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2009.)

  1. Parental Resilience (Being strong and flexible)

Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well as an occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. Multiple life stressors, such as a family history of abuse or neglect, health problems, marital conflict, or domestic or community violence—and financial stressors such as unemployment, poverty, and homelessness—may reduce a parent's capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.

  1. Knowledge of Parenting and Child and Youth Development (Being a great parent is part natural and part learned)

There is extensive research linking healthy child development to effective parenting. Children thrive when parents provide not only affection, but also respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations, and safe opportunities that promote independence. Successful parenting fosters psychological adjustment, helps children succeed in school, encourages curiosity about the world, and motivates children to achieve.

  1. Nurturing and Attachment (Non-verbal actions that promote parent/child bonding)

Research shows that babies who receive affection and nurturing from their 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 academic grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions, and an increased ability to cope with stress.

  1. Social Connections (Parents need friends)

Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Most parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice, or concrete support.

  1. Concrete Support in Times of Need (We all need help sometimes)

Partnering with parents to identify and access resources in the community may help prevent stress.  Providing concrete supports may also help prevent the unintended neglect that sometimes occurs when parents are unable to provide for their children.

  1. Social and Emotional Competence of Children (Healthy child development)

Children’s emerging ability to in­teract positively with others, self-regulate their behavior, and effectively communicate their feelings has a positive impact on their relationships with their family, other adults, and peers. Parents and caregivers grow more respon­sive to children’s needs—and are less likely to feel stressed or frustrated—as children learn to tell parents what they need and how parental actions make them feel, rather than “acting out” difficult feelings.

How do you measure up?

Could you use some assistance building a social network or learning more about parenting your teen? Bottom line is that every parent needs help at one time or another. If we work not only at strengthening our own protective factors, but also work at assisting other families we know, it will take us a long way. When communities work on making sure that parents have the infrastructure and resources available to them when needed, our community will benefit threefold.

In the event you would like more information about protective factors, call (863) 519-8900 ext. 205.