Strengths moderate the impact of trauma on risk behaviors in child welfare

Gene Griffin, Zoran Martinovich, Tim Gawron, John S. Lyons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine whether traumatic experiences of children entering the child welfare system have an impact on their risk behaviors and whether these behaviors are moderated by children's strengths. Method: The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services administered the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) measure to 8,131 children as they entered custody and analyzed Traumatic Experiences, Risk Behaviors and Strengths using polytomous logistic regression models. Results: Children entering child welfare have suffered multiple traumatic experiences. There is a strong linear relationship between the number of these experiences and the level of the children's high risk behaviors. However, there is an interactive effect between traumatic experiences and children's strengths on the risk behaviors, with strengths having a greater moderating effect as the number of traumatic experiences increases. Conclusions: Children entering the child welfare system present with complicated histories that include multiple traumatic experiences and multiple high risk behaviors. However, the more strengths these children have developed, the less likely they are to engage in high-risk behaviors. This resilience has major implications for both prevention and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-118
Number of pages14
JournalResidential Treatment for Children and Youth
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded through a contract with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.


  • Adverse experiences
  • Child welfare
  • Resilience
  • Risk behaviors
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Law


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