Protective Factors – GGK Constructs


The research informed constructs embedded in the Protective Factors Framework were foundational in the development of the Growing Great Kids Curriculum. For every home visit, Growing Great Kids provides strength-based, solution focused guides for building conversations with program parents through skill-driven activities. Both are aimed at reducing risk, while strengthening the protective buffers families are shaping around their children. The curriculum has a primary emphasis on engaging parents, who themselves, have had adverse childhood experiences. These are parents for whom bonding and secure attachments with their children may be compromised. For each home visit, practitioners are provided with specialized strategies for motivating parents to:


  • Foster the growth of secure attachments and support the social & emotional
    development of their infants and young children.
  • Develop parental empathy, while supporting parents to respond sensitively to their child’s needs
  • Provide better understanding and support of early childhood development
  • Build 6 essential parenting skill sets
  • Promote parental resiliency
  • Grow skills & support networks for better managing stress,
    while taking ownership for solving their problems
  • Strengthen family foundations

Protective Factors…
As described by Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action

Protective Factors are conditions that, when present in families and communities, increase the health and well-being of children and families. These components are critical to ensuring that children and youth are successful at home, in school, at work, and in the community, now and as adults. Protective Factors serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress.

For years, researchers have been studying both the risk factors common among families experiencing abuse and neglect and those factors that protect families who are under stress.

There is a growing interest in understanding the complex ways in which these risks and protective factors interact within the context of a child’s family, community, and society to affect both the incidence and consequences of abuse and neglect. Research has found that successful interventions must both reduce risk factors and promote protective factors to ensure the well-being of children and families.

The following six protective factors (also known as 5 + 1) are key elements in supporting and enhancing child and family well-being:

  • Nurturing and Attachment
  • Social and Emotional Competence of Children
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  • Parental Resilience
  • Social Connections
  • Concrete Supports for Parents


Growing Great Kids and Families
Curriculum Modules and Design Features Foster the Growth of Protective Buffers/Factors

GGK Design Features:

  • Conversation Guides written to foster parental resiliency and motivate highly stressed families
    to build their support networks and stress management skills
  • GGK Daily Do’s: 6 Essential Parenting/Attachment Skill Sets, with strategies embedded for
    growing secure attachments, parental empathy, and socially & emotionally competent children,
    while supporting other critical developmental childhood milestones
  • Child Development Information & Activities aimed at bringing joy into family life & equipping
    parents to be their child’s “Development Specialist”

Strategies for building strong and healthy family foundations


Tools for families to use for assessing and celebrating their accomplishments

It should be noted that the GGK Curriculum includes 2 primary components: Growing Great Kids (GGK) and Growing Great Families (GGF). Growing Great Kids Parenting and Child Development modules and activities place more emphasis on building Protective Factors #1-3, while Growing Great Families modules and activities have a stronger emphasis on Protective Factors #4-6. However, in building protective buffers for children, there is overlap in the GGK and GGF Curriculum Components and Tools Home Visitors have available to them.

To provide Home Visitors/Supervisors with a deeper understanding of how specific GGK and GGF modules and tools target the growth of each Protective Factor, each factor is described below, followed by the modules and GGK Daily Do’s primarily associated with growing that protective buffer.


1) Nurturing and Attachment

As described by Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action.

Juggling the demands of work, home, and other responsibilities leaves many parents feeling like they do not have nearly enough time with their children. But even small acts of kindness, protection, and caring — a hug, a smile, or loving words — make a big difference to children. Research shows that babies who receive affection and nurturing from their parents have the best chance of developing into children, teens, and adults who are happy, healthy, and competent.

Research also shows that a consistent relationship with a caring adult in the early years is associated with better grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions, and an increased ability to cope with stress later in life.

Infant brains develop best when a few stable caregivers work to understand and meet the infant’s needs for love, affection, and stimulation. Conversely, neglectful and abusive parenting can have a negative effect on brain development. A lack of contact or interaction with a caregiver can change the infant’s body chemistry, resulting in a reduction in the growth hormones essential for brain and heart development. Furthermore, children who lack early emotional attachments will have a difficult time relating to peers.

As children grow, nurturing by parents and other caregivers remains important to healthy physical and emotional development. Parents nurture their older children by making time to listen to them, being involved and interested in the child’s or teen’s interests and friends, and being willing to advocate for the child when necessary.

2) Social and Emotional Competence of Children

As described by Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action.

Children’s emerging ability to interact positively with others, self-regulate their behavior, and effectively communicate their feelings has a positive impact on their relationships with their family, other adults, and peers. Parents and caregivers grow more responsive to children’s needs — and are less likely to feel stressed or frustrated – as children learn to tell parents what they need and how parental actions make them feel, rather than “acting out” difficult feelings.

On the other hand, children’s challenging behaviors or delays in social emotional development create extra stress for families. Parenting is more challenging when children do not, or cannot, respond positively to their parent’s nurturing and affection. These children may be at greater risk for abuse. Identifying and working with children early to keep their development on track helps keep them safe and helps their parents facilitate their healthy development.


3) Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

As described by Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action.

Parents who understand the usual course of child development are more likely to be able to provide their children with respectful communication, consistent rules and expectations, and opportunities that promote independence. But no parent can be an expert on all aspects of infant, child, and teenage development or on the most effective ways to support a child at each stage.

When parents are not aware of normal developmental milestones, interpret their child’s behaviors in a negative way, or do not know how to respond to, and effectively manage, a child’s behavior, they can become frustrated and may resort to harsh discipline.

As children grow and mature, parents need to continue to learn and change how they respond to their children’s needs. Information about child development and parenting may come from many sources, including extended families, cultural practices, media, formal parent education classes, and a parent’s own experiences. Interacting with other children of similar ages helps parents better understand their own child. Observing other caregivers who use positive techniques for managing children’s behavior also provides an opportunity for parents to learn healthy alternatives.

Parenting styles need to be adjusted for each child’s unique temperament and circumstances. Parents of children with special needs may benefit from additional coaching and support to reduce frustration and help them become the parents their children need.

4) What Home Visitors Can Do To Build Protective Factors #1, #2 & #3

All Growing Great Kids modules have been written with the primary focus on cultivating nurturing parent-child relationships and secure attachments. GGK distinguishes itself by providing a step-by-step approach to cultivating empathic parenting skills. Conversation guides are provided for Home Visitors, structured to progressively support parents to engage in nurturing interactions based on increased understanding of their child’s cues, development and needs.

Growing Great Kids strength based, and solution focused, conversation guides support the Home Visitor in establishing partnerships with parents that put the parents in the lead, empowering them to become “their child’s development specialist.” Additionally, the Daily Do’s parenting skill sets foster the growth of age sensitive, empathic responses to, and interactions with, their children. These “relational skill sets” provide parents with core tools for a lifetime of nurturing and support for their child’s development in all domains.

5) GGK/GGF Tools for Building Protective Factors #1, #2 & #3

Growing Great Kids Modules and Activities (all modules and all child development activities)

  • Basic Care
  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Cues and Communication
  • Physical and Brain Development
  • Play and Stimulation
  • Successes & Next Steps

Growing Great Families Modules

  • Shaping Your Child’s Future
  • Learning About Family Values & Strengths
  • Family Traditions & Cultural Practices
  • Protecting Your Children From Toxic Stress
  • What Happened To My Needs When I Became A Parent
  • Becoming A 3-Generation Family
  • Role Clarification In 3-Generation families
  • Supporting Your Child’s Development
  • Re-connecting Parents To Their Child’s Needs During Times Of Stress
  • Unique Needs: Being The Parent Of A Child With Special Needs
  • When Depression Is A concern
  • Discipline & Punishment
  • Discipline Strategies For Building Self-Regulation
  • Discipline: Dialing It Down & Spanking
  • Addressing Concerns With Families

Attachment and Daily Do’s Parenting Skill Sets

  • Getting In Sync With My Baby
  • Ready for Play
  • E-Parenting
  • Character Builders
  • Play-by-Play
  • 4 Steps To Success
  • Brain Builders
  • Body Builders


Parental Resilience
As described by Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action.

Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life as well as an occasional crisis have resilience — the flexibility and inner strength to bounce back when things are not going well. Parents with resilience also know how to seek help in times of trouble. Their ability to deal with life’s ups and downs serves as a model of coping behavior for their children. Multiple life stressors, such as family history of abuse or neglect, physical and mental health problems, marital conflict, substance abuse, and domestic violence or community violence — and financial stressors such as unemployment, financial insecurity, and homelessness — can reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.

All parents have inner strengths or resources that can serve as a foundation for building their resilience. These may include faith, flexibility, humor, communication skills, problem-solving skills, mutually supportive caring relationships, or the ability to identify and access outside resources and services when needed. All of these qualities strengthen their capacity to parent effectively, and they can be nurtured and developed through concrete skill-building activities or through supportive interactions with others.

6) Social Connections

As described by Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action.

Parents with a network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Most parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice, or concrete support such as transportation or occasional child care. A parent’s supportive relationships also model positive social interactions for children, while giving children access to other supportive adults. On the other hand, research has shown that parents who are isolated and have few social connections are at high risk for child abuse and neglect.

Being new to a community, recently divorced, or a first-time parent makes a support network even more important. It may require extra effort for these families to build new relationships they need.

Some parents may need to develop self-confidence and social skills to expand their social networks. Helping parents identify resources and/or providing opportunities for them to make connections within neighborhoods or communities may encourage isolated parents to reach out. Often, opportunities exist within faith-based organizations, schools, hospitals, community centers, and other places where social groups meet.

7) Concrete Support for Parents

As described by Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action.

Families whose basic needs (for food, clothing, housing, and transportation) are met have more time and energy to devote to their children’s safety and well-being.

When parents do not have steady financial resources, lack health insurance, or face a family crisis (such as natural disaster or the incarceration of a parent), their ability to support their children’s healthy development may be at risk. Some families also may need assistance connecting to social service supports such as alcohol and drug treatment, domestic violence counseling, or public benefits.

Partnering with parents to identify and access resources in the community may help prevent the stress that sometimes precipitates child maltreatment. Offering concrete supports also may help prevent the unintended neglect that sometimes occurs when parents are unable to provide for their children.

What Home Visitors Can Do To Build Protective Factors #4, #5 & #6?

By participating in Growing Great Families modules, program parents gain an appreciation for their own strengths and values, as well as those of other family members. Within the context of these strengths and values, parents learn strategies for coping with stress and solving their problems. In using GGF tools, parents become more resilient and capable of identifying and connecting with resources for meeting their concrete and emotional needs. Additionally, as parents build parenting competencies by participating in Growing Great Kids modules and activities, they develop the confidence to take on new challenges, resulting in feelings of empowerment and resiliency.

family colors - graphic
GGK/GGF Tools for Building Protective Factors #4, #5 & #6
Growing Great Families Modules:

  • Growing Goals
  • Supporting Parents Working Toward Goals
  • Protecting Your Children From Toxic Stress
  • Sizing Up Your Strengths
    • What Happened to My Needs When I Became A Parent
    • Becoming Your Own Personal Coach
    • Warning Signs For Stress Overload
  • Effective Communication
  • Problem Talk: Its More Than Texting & Talking
  • The Power Of Appreciation
  • Moving Beyond Loss
  • When Depression Is A Concern
  • Your Support Network
  • Childcare: What You Need To Ask
  • Planning A Family
  • Becoming A 3-Generation Family
  • Role Clarification In 3-Generation Families
  • Addressing Concerns with Families