Report Features Newly-Released Data to Support Positive Child and Family Well-Being

 

A new report produced in partnership with Casey Family Programs illuminates the importance of HOPE—Health Outcomes of Positive Experiences, a framework that studies and promotes positive child and family well-being.

Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with HOPE presents newly-released, compelling data that reinforces the need and opportunity to support families and communities in the cultivation of relationships and environments that promote healthy childhood development. It also encourages critical reflection upon the positive returns on investment that our society can expect as we make changes in policies, practices, and future research to support positive childhood environments that foster the healthy development of children.

Here's the abstract:

Abstract

This report presents evidence for HOPE (Health Outcomes of Positive Experiences) based on newly released, compelling data that reinforce the need to promote positive experiences for children and families in order to foster healthy childhood development despite the adversity common in so many families. These data:

  1. Establish a spirit of hope and optimism and make the case that positive experiences have lasting impact on human development and functioning, without ignoring well-documented concerns related to toxic environments.
  2. Demonstrate, through science, the powerful contribution of positive relationships and experiences to the development of healthy children and adults.
  3. Describe actions related to current social norms regarding parenting practices, particularly those associated with healthy child development. These actions are based on data that suggest that American adults are willing to intervene personally to prevent child abuse and neglect.
  4. Reflect upon the positive returns on investment that our society can expect as we make changes in policies, practices, and future research to support positive childhood environments that foster the healthy development of children.

Thus, this report contributes to a growing body of work – the Science of Thriving – that encourages us to better understand and support optimal child health and development.

 
Citation: Sege, R., Bethell, C., Linkenbach, J., Jones, J., Klika, B. & Pecora, P.J. (2017). Balancing adverse childhood experiences with HOPE: New insights into the role of positive experience on child and family development. Boston: The Medical Foundation. Accessed at www.cssp.org.
 

 

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Thank you for this report. In 2004 the organization I work for, Church Initiative, created a program for children of divorce. New brain research was pumped into the curriculum. For many years I had run a therapeutic child care. Everything I had experienced and learned in that environment was cast into DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) also. 

Encouragement, hope, laughter, strong relationships with emotionally healthy adults and an introduction to church family through this Christ-centered program was released 13 years ago. Since the program has been out we have seen hundreds of kids put on a different path because of DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids. 

While DC4K is not a counseling or a therapeutic program, it is changing lives. Parents and grandparents have reported calmer kids, grade improvement, better behavior at home and school. Many of these kids are now young adults. We realize there are a lot of variables in these kid's lives but what we are seeing is encouraging and let's us know when early intervention occurs, lives are changed for the better. 

I wish you great success on the HOPE program. Again thanks for sharing.

Linda Jacobs
dc4k.org

Nancy:

Thanks for sharing this. I have so many mixed feelings about this report. I've read it a few times. It's great to see the data on how positive parenting can mitigate ACEs that couldn't be prevented. And I find ACEs Science so positive to begin with but I know some find it depressing. I think if this allows more people to teach and share about ACEs couching and balancing that with the positive, that's great.

I do  worry that a positive parenting focus will imply that some are just "negative" parenting. I worry it will be pressure more rather than understanding and addressing the lasting impact of ACEs on children and the adults we become.

This research showed, for example, that most already support the idea of positive parenting. "Essentials for Childhood national survey shows that most American adults endorse positive parenting. This survey found that, especially among adults of parenting age, there is strong national consensus about these social norms across racial and ethnic groups."

Just as most of us know healthy eating and exercise are positive and good for health and do lots for disease prevention, it's not enough if it doesn't address the why. Even when we have good and solid research and data, we can't always actualize that knowledge or take action.

If we don't address why people don't exercise or don't eat healthy or don't do more positive parenting, I fear a campaign with this emphasis might shame parents for not being able to or knowing how to or not having the resources in order to make it possible. I think a lot more needs to be done on that front so parents in crisis are willing to seek help without feeling or fearing being judged, punished, etc.

I hope this excites people and especially policy makers to support parents and parenting more. I hope that parents with ACEs and those parented with ACEs and who have kids with ACEs are central to all brainstorming, strategizing,  messaging and finding ways to make positive parenting metrics feel actionable.

I do love the part about making sure that education continues about how neglect is trauma. I will share that even after 10 years of therapy for PTSD, and though I was a voracious reader, I was shocked by the ACE study and test because I didn't know that any of the household dysfunction items were trauma at all never mind as impactful as other types of trauma such as abuse.

. One of the things I love most about the ACE test is it shows a list of what is trauma, for a child, and it explains that. To me, that worked as a metric because I saw that doing the opposite of all those things was the goal but it wasn't in the form of someone judging or giving advice to telling me I was doing something wrong. It helped me understand that for all people

more ACEs = more struggles and more risks and more symptoms and sadness

less ACEs = less struggles and less risks and less symptoms and sadness

It opened me up to learning more and helped me understand some of my struggles because I saw it wasn't just personal problems but social problems. It was way bigger and that helped reduce shame and it helped me have more compassion for my own family as well. 

As a parent, some of the slides that changed me the most were the ones where I saw that people with low ACEs had a lot less problems and issues. I wanted my daughter to have all the benefits of that privilege. I think there's so much here and so much of it is so encouraging. But I worry that it will focus again on how parents need to change to be more positive rather than understand how people are changed by childhood trauma and need support, access to healing, healthcare, daycare, etc. in order to be the positive parents we already long to be.

I will keep thinking about this and sharing with other parents as well and those in the Parenting with ACEs group. Thank you for sharing this important work here and making it available to so many of us. Including parents.

Cissy

Nancy, thank you for sharing this valuable resource!  This is the first time I've seen these data and am struck by how clearly positive parenting practices impact children and families.  I saved this report for future reference!  Thanks again!

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