Parents' capacity to change and overcome adversity
2015-07-09T09:17:33Z (GMT) by
Objectives The Centre for Child and Family Research, Loughborough University is undertaking a longitudinal study of children identified as suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm before their first birthdays. The overall objective is to collect evidence that supports decisions concerning which children require permanent out of home placements (such as adoption) and which can safely remain with birth parents. However, a further focus of the study is to explore those factors which affect a parent’s capacity to change and overcome adversity. Methods The study, involving ten local authorities, followed 57 children up to the age of three. Thirty-seven children were subsequently followed until the age of five years and researchers are continuing to trace the children, now aged seven to eight years. The study uses mixed methods: data were collected from social work files, interviews with social workers and teachers, and annual interviews with parents and carers. Using this data, each child was classified at identification for the study, aged three and aged five years according to his or her level of risk of maltreatment or its recurrence, with particular weight given to parents' capacity to change. Results At entry to the study, seven percent of children were classified as being at low risk of harm. By the age of three years, this figure had increased to 37%, suggesting that a number of parents had managed to make significant changes to their lives. The data suggest a range of factors involved in the positive changes made by parents in the study. A number of parents also experienced what they described as ‘wake-up calls', which acted as a catalyst for change. Conclusions The study shows how the parents of some children, who had at one time been assessed as being at risk of significant harm, have been able to overcome adversity and make sufficient positive change to their lives to enable them to care safely for their children. The study identifies a range of factors affecting their ability to make changes, for instance, the ability to develop supportive networks, being able to acknowledge risky behaviours and coming to terms with the removal of older children.