Abstract: Developmental Differences in Factors That Promote Resilience Among Maltreated Children: A Qualitative Study (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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253P Developmental Differences in Factors That Promote Resilience Among Maltreated Children: A Qualitative Study

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Susan Yoon, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Rebecca Dillard, PhD, Doctoral Student, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Brieanne Beaujolais, MA, MSW, Doctoral student, Ohio State University, OH
Background/Purpose: Although there has been a growing interest in identifying factors that promote resilient development in maltreated children, in-depth examinations of resilience promotive factors following child maltreatment through a developmental lens have yet to be widespread. Thus, little is known about how resilience promotive factors vary depending on children’s stage of development, impeding the creation and implementation of developmentally guided resilience promotion interventions. Further, practitioners’ voices from the field have been largely neglected in understanding resilience in maltreated children, yet they may offer valuable insight on resilience promotive factors, from their experiences of working with maltreated youths. Therefore, this study sought to explore developmental differences in resilience promotive factors for maltreated children across three developmental stages (early childhood [0-5 years], middle childhood [6-11 years], and adolescence [12-18 years]), by incorporating the voices of practitioners (direct service providers) who work with maltreated children.

Methods: Data were collected through 27 in-depth, semi-structured, face-to-face qualitative interviews with practitioners who provide services to youth who have experienced child maltreatment. Participants were recruited from two agencies in a metropolitan city in a Midwestern state: an advocacy center for children and a community-based agency providing foster care services. All interviews were audio recorded and professionally transcribed. Thematic coding and analysis was conducted using ATLAS.ti v.8 to analyze the data. The transcripts were coded by four trained researchers. The coded texts were separated into three groups (early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence) and were analyzed separately to identify the emergent themes within each developmental stage. After the themes within each group were identified, the researchers compared the themes across each developmental stage to compare and contrast the results.

Results: Across all developmental stages that were examined (i.e., early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence) in this study, having supportive caregivers/adults/relationships emerged as a salient theme related resilient development following maltreatment. During early childhood, forming positive and secure attachment with the caregiver was found to be a resilience promotive factor. Peer friendships in school and the community were identified as a vital ingredient in resilient functioning for maltreated children in middle childhood. Resilience promotive factors in adolescence included the ability to ask for help, self-exploration, and unconditional care from supportive others.

Conclusions and Implications: Some resilience promotive factors appeared to be universal regardless of developmental stage, while others were unique and exclusive to a specific developmental stage. For children in early childhood, family-based intervention could weave together external skills (e.g., coping) with relational (e.g., attachment, parenting) work to best enhance resilience. Children in middle childhood may benefit more from sessions tailored toward improving peer networks, school engagement, and adaptability. Finally, adolescents may respond best to individual treatment oriented toward independence, self-exploration, and empowerment. The centrality of trusting and healthy relationships were not exclusive to a single developmental stage, indicating the universal value of treatments having a social and systemic component to promote resilience in maltreated youth.