Trinity Mount Ministries

Thursday, April 15, 2021

National Child Abuse Prevention Month - Protective Factors and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Protective factors and adverse childhood experiences are frameworks utilized in prevention efforts to reduce the risk of maltreatment and prevent the recurrence of abuse or neglect by drawing upon the strengths of families and acknowledging traumatic events.

Protective Factors

Protective factors are conditions or attributes that, when present in families and communities, increase the well-being of children and families and reduce the likelihood of maltreatment. Identifying protective factors helps parents find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively—even under stress. There are 6 protective factors:

  • Nurturing and attachment
  • Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
  • Parental resilience
  • Social connections
  • Concrete supports for parents
  • Social and emotional competence of children

For more information about protective factors, see Protective Factors to Promote Well-Being.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

ACEs are traumatic events that occur before a child reaches the age of 18.

ACEs include:

  • All types of abuse and neglect
  • Parental substance use or mental illness
  • Parental incarceration
  • Domestic violence
  • Divorce

A landmark study in the 1990s found a significant relationship between the number of ACEs a person experienced and a variety of negative outcomes in adulthood, including poor physical and mental health, substance use, and risky behaviors1. The more ACEs experienced, the greater the risk for these outcomes. By definition, children involved with the child welfare system have suffered at least one ACE. Understanding the impact of ACEs and how to build resilience in children and families can lead to more trauma-informed interventions that help to mitigate negative outcomes.

For more information and resources about ACEs, see Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). About the CDC-Kaiser ACE study: Major findings. Retrieved from

The Children's Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds the National Child Abuse Prevention Month initiative each April on the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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