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Supporting Childhood Development

In the sexual violence prevention field there is more concrete data on risk factors for perpetration than there is about protective factors. However, for prevention efforts aimed at young people, there is a wealth of other research we can draw upon in order to create evidence-informed programming. Promoting healthy childhood development, rather than teaching children to protect themselves from abuse, aligns with primary prevention best practice. This approach also allows us to think beyond changing the dynamics that perpetuate violence and move towards focusing on building the future we want to see by giving young people healthy skills to start with. Focusing on healthy development and building protective factors is a great first step in creating communities that are safe, healthy, thriving, and ultimately free from sexual violence.

Protective Factors & Resiliency

Research around Adverse Childhood Experiences and resiliency has been a useful tool when working with child survivors and their families. But the benefits of this data can be useful to prevention as well! Many children's lives are impacted by trauma that may not include sexual abuse. Therefore while they may not come through your door as a client, their experiences living in a world saturated with violence and oppression are relevant to your prevention work.

Structuring programming that is connected to the 7 Cs: Essential Building Blocks of Resiliency is a great way to bolster children's healthy skills. These skills not only benefit them individually, but are the foundation to developing safe, fulfilling, and kind interpersonal relationships.

Developmental Assets Framework

Another helpful resource to consult in your prevention efforts with young people is the Developmental Assets. The Search Institute developed this framework that aims to promote norms and experiences that help young people to develop into successful, confident, and supportive adults.

By creating an account on their website, you can access the age-specific lists for free. There are a slew of other resources on the site about the impact of meaningful relationships and engaged communities on the growth and success of children.

Try it out!

In conjunction with the 2015 Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign, we have created a discussion guide designed for elementary school-aged children. This guide is informed by all of the research and frameworks mentioned above in order to maximize the potential to promote protective factors and support healthy development in young children. There are eight categories and several question prompts for each, but of course we encourage you to adapt and customize this activity based on the learning objectives of your prevention program and to make it relevant to the community you are working with.

You can download the Be The Solution Discussion Guide, Kids Edition for free in both English and Spanish.

Want more?

If your prevention efforts are focused on teens, rather than children, several of the above resources are still for you! For example…

Reviewed: April 6th, 2016