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Character Strengths and Resilience in Adolescence: a Developmental Perspective

The Journal of Positive Psychology

This commentary brings together thoughts on the papers in this special issue and integrates research on adolescent development, resilence, and positive youth experiences that promote character development. We apply the Protective and Compensatory Experieces (PACEs) framework to the papers in the special issue. We also discuss future directions for research and interventions promoting positive youth development and characters strengths.

Promotive and Buffering Effects of Protective and Compensatory Experiences on Mental Health and Adjustment in Young Adults

Emerging Adulthood

Adverse childhood Experiences (ACEs) are considered a major public health crisis. Protective and Compensatory Experiences (PACEs) may help to ameliorate the effects of ACEs on young adult well-being. This study examined the moderating role of childhood PACEs on the effects of ACEs on depression, anxiety, substance use, and emotion regulation (ER) difficulties in a sample of 550 (73% female, m age = 20 yrs.) undergraduate students. ACEs were associated with greater symptoms of anxiety and depression, substance use, and ER difficulties whereas PACEs were associated with fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, substance use, and ER difficulties. Protective and compensatory experiences significantly moderated the relationship between ACEs and depression, such that greater PACEs weakened the relationship between ACES and depression. Protective and compensatory experiences did not significantly moderate relationships between ACEs and anxiety, substance use, or ER difficulties. These findings suggest PACEs promote adjustment in young adults and can buffer the deleterious effects of ACEs.


Protective and Compensatory Childhood Experiences and Their Impact on Adult Mental Health

World Psychiatry

Adult mental health is influenced by childhood exposure to both adverse and protective experiences. PACEs are often overlooked but powerful tools, that can support therapeutic interventions and mental health throughout the life course.


Parenting Challenges and Opportunities among Families Living in Poverty 

Social Sciences

Poverty-related stressors have been found to impact parenting behaviors which can result in adverse outcomes for children. The current qualitative study focused on understanding the challenges of caregivers (N = 70) living in poverty. The sample was diverse and included mothers, fathers, and grandparents raising grandchildren. Stories of caregivers were gathered to improve the understanding of families living in poverty in an effort to work towards changing how our world supports families that are vulnerable. Results indicate that families experiencing poverty and related risk factors experience challenges in the realm of child safety, education, and racism/prejudice. Families also discussed ways to improve their environment which included increased financial resources, increased access to high-quality healthcare and childcare, and positive environmental change. Note that the current study outlines the complexity of parenting in poverty and that associated challenges are intertwined. Recommendations are made to address systemic barriers at the individual and community level in an effort to better support caregivers experiencing adversity and parenting in the 21st century.


The Heart of the Matter: Developing the Whole Child Through Community Resources and Caregiver Relationships

Development and Psychopathology

Numerous developmental scholars have been influenced by the research, policies, and thinking of the late Edward Zigler, who was instrumental in founding Head Start and Early Head Start. In line with the research and advocacy work of Zigler, we discuss two models that support the development of the whole child. We begin by reviewing how adverse and protective experiences “get under the skin” and affect developmental trajectories and risk and resilience processes. We then present research and examples of how experiences affect the whole child, the heart and the head (social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development), and consider development within context and across domains. We discuss examples of interventions that strengthen nurturing relationships as the mechanism of change. We offer a public health perspective on promoting optimal development through nurturing relationships and access to resources during early childhood. We end with a discussion of the myth that our current society is child-focused and argue for radical, essential change to make promoting optimal development for all children the cornerstone of our society.

Adverse and Protective Childhood Experiences and Parenting Attitudes: the Role of Cumulative Protection in Understanding Resilience

Adversity and Resilience Science

Theory and research indicate that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are linked to negative parenting attitudes and behaviors. We posit that protective and compensatory experiences (PACEs) in childhood buffer the negative effects of ACEs on later parenting. To test this premise, the present study examined associations between ACEs, PACEs, and attitudes towards nurturing and harsh parenting in an ethnically diverse sample of parents with children of various ages (N = 109; 65% mothers, 35% fathers; M age = 38). Parents completed a widely used parenting attitudes questionnaire and the ACEs and PACEs surveys. PACEs were negatively correlated with ACEs and positively correlated with nurturing parenting attitudes and parent income and education levels. Linear regression models indicate that higher PACEs, ACEs, and family income and less harsh parenting attitudes predict nurturing parenting attitudes. In contrast, higher ACEs and less nurturing attitudes were correlated with harsh parenting attitudes. As expected, moderation analyses indicated that the association between ACEs and harsh parenting attitudes was conditional upon the level of PACEs. When PACE scores were low (M – 1 SD), but not when PACE scores were average or high (M + 1 SD), ACEs were associated with harsh parenting attitudes, suggesting a buffering effect of PACEs on negative parenting attitudes. These findings support the importance of including protective as well as adverse childhood experiences when assessing the role of childhood experiences on parenting attitudes and practices. Implications of these findings for researchers and practitioners are discussed, as well as new directions for PACEs research using a cumulative protection approach.

Adverse and Protective Childhood Experiences:
A Developmental Perspective

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can negatively influence development. However, the lifelong effects of positive childhood experiences (PACEs) can mitigate the detrimental effects of adverse ones. By integrating existing knowledge about ACEs with developmental research on preventing, buffering, and treating the effects of adversity, stress, and trauma on child development and subsequent health and functioning, this book identifies the most important of these PACEs. It provides an interdisciplinary lens from which to view the multiple types of effects of enduring childhood experiences, and recommends evidence-based approaches for protecting children and repairing the enduring negative consequences of ACEs they face as adults. Students, researchers, clinicians, and health-care providers can use this research to understand the science of early life adversity, lifelong resilience, and related intervention and prevention programming to help those suffering from the lifelong effects of ACEs. Chapters include many figures, graphs, diagrams, stories, and activities that aim to help readers apply the science to everyday life.

Integrating and Synthesizing Adversity and Resilience Knowledge and Action: The ICARE Model

American Psychologist

This paper proposes a model for understanding the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as dynamic and interrelated biobehavioral adaptations to early life stress that have predictable consequences on development and health. Drawing upon research from multiple theoretical and methodological approaches, the Intergenerational and Cumulative Adverse and Resilient Experiences (ICARE) model posits that the negative consequences of ACEs result from biological and behavioral adaptations to adversity that alter cognitive, social, and emotional development. These adaptations often have negative consequences in adulthood and may be transmitted to subsequent generations through epigenetic changes as well as behavioral and environmental pathways. The ICARE model also incorporates decades of resilience research documenting the power of protective relationships and contextual resources in mitigating the effects of ACEs. Examples of interventions are provided that illustrate the importance of targeting the dysregulated biobehavioral adaptations to ACEs and developmental impairments as well as resulting problem behaviors and health conditions.


Adverse Childhood Experiences: A New Framework for Infant Mental Health

Encyclopedia of Infant and Early Childhood Development

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) alter neurological development, immune and metabolic systems, and even DNA, due to enduring negative consequences on health and functioning. These alterations may be transmitted across generations through biological as well as behavioral patterns. Protective and compensatory experiences (PACEs) have the potential to buffer the negative effects of ACEs. In this chapter, we describe the neurophysiological effects of early life adversity, and the relationship and resource PACEs that promote resilience and recovery within families struggling with the challenges of intergenerational trauma and adversity.

Principles for Guiding the Selection of Early Childhood Neurodevelopmental Risk and Resilience Measures: HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study as an Exemplar

Adversity and Resilience Science

The vast individual differences in the developmental origins of risk and resilience pathways combined with sophisticated capabilities of big data science increasingly point to the imperative of large, neurodevelopmental consortia to capture population heterogeneity and key variations in developmental trajectories. At the same time, such large-scale population-based designs involving multiple independent sites also must weigh competing demands. For example, the need for efficient, scalable assessment strategies must be balanced with the need for nuanced, developmentally sensitive phenotyping optimized for linkage to neural mechanisms and specification of common and distinct exposure pathways. Standardized epidemiologic batteries designed for this purpose such as PhenX (consensus measures for Phenotypes and eXposures) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox provide excellent “off the shelf” assessment tools that are well-validated and enable cross-study comparability. However, these standardized toolkits can also constrain ability to leverage advances in neurodevelopmental measurement over time, at times disproportionately advantaging established measures. In addition, individual consortia often expend exhaustive effort “reinventing the wheel,” which is inefficient and fails to fully maximize potential synergies with other like initiatives. To address these issues, this paper lays forth an early childhood neurodevelopmental assessment strategy, guided by a set of principles synthesizing developmental and pragmatic considerations generated by the Neurodevelopmental Workgroup of the HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Planning Consortium. These principles emphasize characterization of both risk- and resilience-promoting processes. Specific measurement recommendations to HBCD are provided to illustrate application. However, principles are intended as a guiding framework to transcend any particular initiative as a broad neurodevelopmentally informed, early childhood assessment strategy for large-scale consortia science.

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