In this module, we will address how our beliefs about child, youth, and family resilience influence our practice and affect how we support the lives of others.

Strengths-based framework

A strengths-based framework supported by resilience research helps us to view the many strengths children, youth, families, and communities have as resources for addressing the challenges that people face. This framework does not ignore the risks that people face in their lives. It is critical that we continue to invest in building effective early intervention and prevention responses to intimate partner violence. Within this framework, we can first work to create safety and then support people as they make their way to health through marshaling strengths, relationships, and resources (1).

Some literature refers to resilience as a trait. We will be referring to resilience as a dynamic process that supports positive adaptation in the context of significant adversity (2). Ann Masten refers to resilience as “ordinary magic”, claiming we all have the capacity for resilience.

Enhancing protective factors

A helpful theory put forth by Bonnie Benard recognizes that all individuals — children, youth, and adults — have basic human needs like safety, love, belonging, meaning, and accomplishment. In the context of children and youth who are exposed to domestic violence, “safety” is paramount (3).

Three protective factors within an environment in a child’s life – including home, school, community, or peer group — play a role in whether the needs of children and youth are met. The three protective factors are:

  • providing caring relationships,
  • maintaining high expectations and support, and
  • providing meaningful opportunities for participation and contribution.

When these protective factors are present in any one of the above environments it provides the climate that nurtures the resilience of a child or youth exposed to domestic violence. In this context, these protective factors provide the developmental supports and opportunities that mitigate and buffer the negative effect that trauma, adversity, and/or stress may have on an individual and contributes to the healthy and successful development.

Resilience in Action

From this viewpoint, resilience is not dependent on the characteristics of the individual, but is supported by the important relationships in the lives of children and youth. This includes family members and the relationship a child has with his or her primary caretaker.

What factors contribute to our experiences of resilience?

  • Enhancing safety
  • Developing strong caring relationships
  • Fostering a sense of purpose and morality
  • Increasing consistency
  • Creating a nurturing environment
  • Building a support network
  • Nurturing a positive self-regard


    1. Bodiford, K (2012). Choppin’ it Up – Youth Led Dialogues for Positive Change.
    2. Luthar, S. S., Cicchetti, D., & Becker, B. (2000a). The construct of resilience: A critical evaluation and guidelines for future research. Child Development, 71, 543-562. 
    3. Benard, B. (2004). Resiliency: What we have learned. San Francisco, CA: WestEd.