Protective Factors

In a February 2014 Issue Brief, the Child Welfare Information Gateway provides information and resources on protective factors.

According to this brief, protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that mitigate risk and promote healthy development and well-being.

Put simply, they are the strengths that help to buffer and support families at risk. This definition could also describe IFPS services, indicating that IFPS and protective factors are interrelated.

Protective factors build on a family’s strengths, just as IFPS does. Here are the five key protective factors, as developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy:

  • Parental Resilience
  • Social Connections
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  • Concrete Support in Times of Need
  • Social-Emotional Competence of Children

Now, let’s see if there is a corollary for these 5 factors in IFPS services:

  • Parental Resilience: IFPS emphasizes home-based services focusing on developing parental coping abilities so that children can safely remain in their homes.
  • Social Connections: IFPS is a brief service so it is important to link families to social and community connections that will provide long-term support for the family.
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: IFPS therapists devote considerable time to teaching skills to parents that are based on the child’s age and development.
  • Concrete Support in Times of Need: One of the earliest and most consistent findings of IFPS research is the impact of concrete services on successful outcomes.
  • Social-Emotional Competence of Children: IFPS views children as integral members of the family who are included in planning and receiving services, and whose increased social and emotional well-being are critical in keeping families together.

Research on protective factors shows a subset that are are of particular interest to IFPS services because they have the strongest empirical support as shown in the following chart:

Protective Factors with the Strongest Evidence

The following are definitions for some of the individual protective factors:

  • Selfregulation skills refer to ability to manage or control emotions and behaviors, which can include anger management, character, long‐term self‐control, and emotional intelligence.
  • Relational skills refer to ability to form positive bonds and connections (e.g., social competence, being caring, forming prosocial relationships) and interpersonal skills (e.g., communication skills and conflict‐resolution skills).
  • Problemsolving skills refer to adaptive functioning skills and ability to solve problems.

Self‐regulation skills, relational skills, and problem‐solving skills are related to positive outcomes such as resiliency, having supportive friends, positive academic performance, improved cognitive functioning, and better social skills. They are also related to reductions in post‐traumatic stress disorder, stress, anxiety, depression, and delinquency.

Now, share how you develop protective factors with your IFPS families!


To view the Issue Brief on Protective Factors, visit:
To view the research on Protective Factors, see:
(PDF, 512, Kb)
Here’s a creative portrayal of protective factors and definitions:—Emotional-Competence-of-Children.html


Posted by Priscilla Martens, Executive Director, National Family Preservation Network