Description of Protective Factors

​​​​Protective factors help promote positive child development while also protecting children from the negative effects of risk or exposure to child maltreatment. Protective factors also support a child’s resilience, the ability to recover from difficult life experiences and even be strengthened by those experiences. Resilient children develop skills that help them withstand future challenges and weather life’s ups and downs.These skills are developed in the context of supportive, nurturing relationships with caring consistent adults. Primary caregivers within a child's family are the predominant source of these relationships.​

The individual characteristics of each child and the physical and social envrionments that surround them interact either to enhance protective factors or conversely to increase their level of risk. The Public Health Socio-Ecological Model represents the individual child nested within spheres of influence. 




The red circle represents the individual child's characteristics including personal history, biological and social characteristics. Individual child protective factors include: 

  • Nurturing relationship with one or more consistent caring adults
  • Intelligence and problem-solving skills
  • Social emotional competence
  • Adaptable temperament
  • Self-motivation and self-direction
  • Confidence in one’s agency, ability to cope and sense of self-efficacy
  • Optimism
  • Faith, hope and a sense that life has meaning
  • Good, healthy peer relationships
  • Hobbies or interests


The blue circle represents the child's relationships, the most influential of which are with their family members and primary caregivers. Those relationships are significant in terms of function and are predominantly, but not necessailry, biological. To function well as a unit and promote optimal child development and well-being, all families rely on these five  protective factors:

  • Concrete Supports in Times of Need
  • Parental Resilience
  • Social Connections
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  • Social and Emotional Competence of Children


The aqua circle represents the characteristics of communities, the settings where families live, work and recreate. When families have access to healthy communities, they are able to draw on community protective factors to support parental and child well-being. 
Community protective factors include:

  • Socio-economic stability
  • Availability and quality of employment
  • Quality schools
  • Availability, affordability and a​ccess to childcare, healthy food, housing and health care 
  • Safety from violence
  • Recreational opportunities and green spaces
  • Opportunities for social interaction​​


The yellow circle represents the broad societal factors that influence social climate. These structural factors impact intersections within all of the other settings.
Societal protective factors include:

  • Social norms
  • Policies and laws
  • Resource allocation
  • Values
  • Culture

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