• Protective factors to resilience in maltreated children: A developmental view

      Henry, Darla Lynn; Belcher, John R. (1996)
      The costs of child maltreatment to children, families and society have been extensively documented for the past 30 years. Children who have been maltreated by a primary caregiver respond with various behaviors to coping with living in an abusive environment. It was the intent of this qualitative research study to explore the protective factors that indicate resilience in a group of adolescents, maltreated as children, who have demonstrated competence and mastery towards independent living. The grounded theory method was chosen for this study because the research questions focused on the exploration and explanation of coping methods used by children who were maltreated. Seven adolescents (ages 13 to 20) and six professional child care workers were interviewed on three occasions to obtain their perceptions of their reactions to the abuse. These perceptions were then categorized into common patterns and themes, using the constant comparative method, towards working hypotheses indicative of the protective factors of resilience. Adolescents and child care professionals, all associated with the York County Children and Youth Services, York, Pennsylvania, were the participants in this study. Descriptive results of this study indicated the emergence of five themes that showed a progression of skills used by children to adapt to and cope with an abusive caregiver. These themes were: the child's perceptions of the abusing parent(s), normalizing the abusive environment, establishing a sense of safety through a perception of invisibility, developing a positive self value and having a future orientation. The successful progression through each of these themes resulted in a more resilient adolescent who demonstrated competency and mastery of adolescent tasks. These themes comprised a developmental perspective of resilience in maltreated children. The findings suggest that those children who were able to cope with maltreatment through these perceptions gained a sense of control in their lives. The more their actions minimized the impact of the abusive episodes, the more their value of self increased. As they began to discover pride in surviving and overcoming difficulties, more and more of their capabilities came into the work and play of daily life. Competency and mastery were reinforced through the reliance of self through the developing years. Resilience is a product of this adaptation to the abuse.