A recent study analyzed the extent to which positive experiences helped counteract adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and found some important and encouraging protective factors. The study looked at more than 3400 teenagers, and used a logistic regression analysis to compare factors (full disclosure: I do not do math, so I have no idea how and whether logistic regression works). The study found the expected connection between ACEs and anxiety later in life. Interestingly, it did not find a connection with later depression. Family dysfunction, on the other hand, had a strong connection to both anxiety and depression.
In the good news, warm relationships with parents had the strongest correlation to lower rate of depression and anxiety. Another important factor with a strong correlation to good mental health was having a father involved in a child’s life. Positive peer relationships and feeling connected at school had somewhat less correlation than family connections, but still showed a strong relationship. Connections to the surrounding community showed up as a possible protective factor against depression, but not anxiety.
This is only one study, but it is line with other research showing that it is possible to help counter the negative effects of child maltreatment. For those of us raising other people’s children, it helps to know that the type of relationships we build are important. We need to support our kids’ biological families when and where we can. We also need to build our own warm relationships with them, and encourage connectedness to school and friends. Those efforts will be the best way that we can help them overcome the effects of whatever trauma they have suffered.