Report points to power of positive experiences to overcome childhood adversity

A new report from Casey Family Programs explores emerging research that links positive experiences in childhood with healthy outcomes for children and families and their ability to mitigate the effects of early adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The report points to actions that lessen the adversity common in so many families by promoting positive experiences for children and families.

Resource parents can help children thrive by using parenting approaches that allow children to have positive experiences.

The science of brain development has linked ACEs with a host of negative health and emotional problems as children mature into adolescence and adulthood. The authors of the report express concern, however, that focusing too much on ACEs runs the risk of labeling children and families when the emphasis should be on investing in positive experiences to help them flourish and overcome early adversity.

The report seeks to contribute to the burgeoning “science of thriving” by introducing the Health Outcomes of Positive Experiences (HOPE) framework in support of positive child and family well-being. The report describes parenting practices and positive community norms associated with healthy child development and examines factors that moderate ACEs. For instance, children are more likely to demonstrate resilience when they and their parents are able to engage in meaningful discussions; when parents are engaged in their children’s lives, such as participating in their children’s activities and knowing their friends; and when parents are able to manage their own stress related to parenting. It also considers the benefits of investing in positive experiences that support optimal child health and development.

The report, Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with HOPE, is available at

Reprinted from the Children’s Bureau Express, September 2017 (Vol. 18, No. 6)

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Promoting Positive Childhood Experiences

As Sege and Harper Browne (2017) explain, the research-based HOPE framework places positive childhood experiences in four broad categories:


1. Being in nurturing, supportive relationships. Examples:

  • Secure attachments
  • Warm, responsive, sustained relationships
  • Parent is physically and mentally healthy
  • Parent provides supportive care based on the child’s traits, circumstances, and needs

2. Living, developing, playing, and learning in safe, stable, protective, and equitable environments. Examples:

  • A safe, stable home
  • Adequate nutrition and sufficient sleep
  • High-quality learning opportunities
  • Opportunities for play and physical activity
  • High-quality medical and dental care

3. Having opportunities for constructive social engagement and to develop a sense of connectedness. Examples:

  • Involvement in social institutions and environments
  • Fun and joy in activities and with others
  • Success and accomplishment
  • Aware of one’s cultural customs and traditions
  • A sense of belonging and personal value

4. Learning social and emotional competencies. Examples:

  • Behavioral, emotional, and cognitive self-regulation
  • Executive function skills
  • Positive character traits
  • Self-awareness and social cognition
  • Functional, productive responses to challenges

This framework underscores the value of the many things resource parents routinely do, including shared parenting with birth parents, supporting participation in sports and extracurricular activities, and actively engaging with children through play, reading aloud, and frequent conversation.