While children exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) face serious adversity as a group, their personal stories demonstrate a wide range of outcomes.

In 2015, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child released a follow-up paper (Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience) explaining why some children exposed to serious adversity had unexpectedly positive outcomes. 

Resilience - developed through a complex interplay of gene expression, adaptive biological systems, and positive experiences - allowed the child to transform potentially toxic stress into tolerable stress. Resilient children demonstrate the capacity to adapt and to thrive in response to serious hardship. 

KidsMates Resilience Arrow demonstrates how children can transform adversity into positive outcomes. A KidsMates Graphic.

The paper illustrates the development of resilience using the concept of a seesaw. Positive experiences tip the seesaw toward positive outcomes. The most common positive experience shared among resilient children is a stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. The fulcrum's position also determines the balance on the scale between positive and negative outcomes. The fulcrum's initial placement is based on genetics; however, the cumulative impact of life experience can shift the fulcrum and tip the balance towards positive outcomes.

The Building Blocks of Resilience. A KidsMates Graphic.

The Seesaw Analogy Demonstrates Factors Affecting Outcomes in Children Exposed to Adversity. A KidsMates Graphic.

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