Risk Factors

Risk factors are circumstances, characteristics, conditions, events, or traits at the individual, family, community, or cultural level that may increase the likelihood a person will experience adversity (e.g., childhood trauma, re-traumatization, or negative outcomes due to trauma). Risk factors for specific types of trauma may vary, but commonly include living in poverty, a lack of social supports, and prior history of trauma. Additionally, children who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) and children in military families are at an increased risk for experiencing trauma. However, the presence of risk factors or membership in a high-risk group does not necessarily mean that a child will experience trauma or its most adverse effects. Protective factors can buffer children from risk and improve the odds of resilient functioning. Protective factors are characteristics, conditions, or events that promote healthy development and minimize the risk or likelihood a person will experience a particular illness or event, or its related negative outcomes. Research shows that the strongest protective factor linked with resilience to childhood trauma is the reliable presence of a sensitive, nurturing, and responsive adult. The presence of such a figure can help children by restoring a sense of safety, predictability, and control; giving them the feeling of safety; providing them a way to process traumatic events; protecting them from re-traumatization; supporting their development of self-regulation; and helping them heal.

In addition, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network highlights the following protective factors that promote resilience to childhood trauma:

 Support from family, friends, people at school, and members of the community

 A sense of safety at home, at school, and in the community

 High self-esteem and positive sense of self-worth

 Self-efficacy

 Spiritual or cultural beliefs, goals, or dreams for the future that provide a sense of meaning to a child’s life

 A talent or skill in a particular area (e.g., excelling in school or in a sport)

 Coping skills that can be applied to varying situations Finally, resilience to childhood trauma depends largely on the supports available to a child and his or her family. Family members, teachers, mental health providers, child welfare workers, and other community service providers can work together to ensure that children and families

receive the emotional and concrete supports (e.g., food, shelter, financial stability) they need. This system of care approach is also a cornerstone of TIC. 

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