While children with an incarcerated parent 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 explaining why some children exposed to serious adversity had unexpectedly positive outcomes. These children demonstrated “resilience” - the capacity to adapt and to thrive in response to serious hardship. Resilience - developed through a complex interplay between gene expression, adaptive biological systems, and positive experiences - allowed the child to transform potentially toxic stress into tolerable stress. They illustrated the development of resilience using the concept of a seesaw or teeter-totter.


Positive experiences could “stack the scale” and tip the balance toward positive outcomes. Those factors include:

The fulcrum's position 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 has the potential to tip the balance towards positive outcomes.

Source: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University 


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