Childhood adversity and parent perceptions of child resilience

Heard-Garris, N.; Davis, M. M.; Szilagyi, M.; Kan, K.

BMC Pediatr. 2018 Jun 28; 18(1):204


BACKGROUND: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) negatively impact health throughout the life course. For children exposed to ACEs, resilience may be particularly important. However, the literature regarding resilience, particularly the self-regulation aspect of resilience, is not often described in children with ACEs. Additionally, family and community factors that might help promote resilience in childhood may be further elucidated. We aimed to describe the relationship between ACEs and parent-perceived resilience in children and examine the child, family, and community-level factors associated with child resilience. METHODS: Using the US-based, 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health, we examined adverse childhood experiences (NSCH-ACEs) as the main exposure. Affirmative answers to adverse experiences generated a total parent-reported NSCH-ACE score. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression models were constructed for parent-perceived child resilience and its association with ACEs, controlling for child, family, and neighborhood-level factors. RESULTS: Among 62,200 US children 6-17 years old, 47% had 0 ACEs, 26% had 1 ACE, 19% had 2-3 ACEs, and 8% had 4 or more ACEs. Child resilience was associated with ACEs in a dose-dependent relationship: as ACEs increased, the probability of resilience decreased. This relationship persisted after controlling for child, family, and community factors. Specific community factors, such as neighborhood safety (p < .001), neighborhood amenities (e.g., libraries, parks) (p < .01) and mentorship (p < .05), were associated with significantly higher adjusted probabilities of resilience, when compared to peers without these specific community factors. CONCLUSIONS: While ACEs are common and may be difficult to prevent, there may be opportunities for health care providers, child welfare professionals, and policymakers to strengthen children and families by supporting community-based activities, programs, and policies that promote resilience in vulnerable children and communities in which they live.

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