Resilience among High-Risk Children: Analyses from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW)

Summary. This project is a secondary data analysis of the NSCAW data, funded by the Administration for Children and Families. The NSCAW data offers a unique opportunity to analyze a national longitudinal sample of children involved with the child protective system in order to develop practice and policy recommendations about the resources that enhance resilience.


Child maltreatment is associated with an increased risk for internalizing problems, such as depression and anxiety, and externalizing problems, such as aggression, delinquency, and antisocial behavior. Furthermore, because child maltreatment tends to co-occur with other adversities, including parental conflict, parental psychopathology, community violence, and poverty, resilient adaptation may be particularly challenging. Yet, some maltreated children achieve higher levels of adaptive functioning than others. However, to date very few longitudinal research studies have been conducted on the resources that enhance resilience among maltreated children. The proposed study is a preliminary step toward further understanding the prevalence and stability of resilience, the resources that enhance resilience, and the developmental pathways and contexts that influence resilience among maltreated children.

The Goals of this Project are to:

  • Describe the prevalence and stability of resilient adaptation among maltreated children. Three domains of resilience will be examined, including behavioral resilience, educational resilience, and emotional resilience. First, what proportion of children is doing well at baseline? Second, what proportion of children is still doing well 18 and 36 months after a report of maltreatment?
  • Examine how resources at various levels, such as the individual, family, and community, enhance resilient adaptation. Which resources or protective factors favor positive adaptation rather than pathology? Are some resources more effective for specific victim populations?
  • Examine how adversities impact resilience. How does early and chronic maltreatment affect the likelihood of resilience?
  • Explore a complex causal model of resilience to help assist policy makers and practitioners craft research-based initiatives for improving resilience among maltreated children.


The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) used a stratified two-stage sampling procedure with a target population of children in the U.S. who were subjects of child abuse and neglect investigations conducted by child protective services.

For more information about NSCAW see

For information about acquiring the data see

Detailed data were gathered from children, caregivers, caseworkers, and teachers for about 5,000 children ranging in age from 0 to 14 at baseline. Children sampled were involved in investigations closed between October 1, 1999 and December 21, 2000. Case data was collected at 12, 18, and 36 post baseline. Currently additional waves of the data are being collected. Children completed a wide range of standardized instruments including the Mini Battery of Achievement, School Engagement, Children’s Depression Inventory, Trauma Symptom Checklist, the CBCL, and the Conflict Tactic Scales. Caregivers completed the CBCL, the Social Skills Rating System, the Conflict Tactic Scales, and the Child and Adolescent Services Assessment, among other instruments. Caseworkers completed the Maltreatment Classification Scale, a risk assessment instrument, and services received, among other instruments.

Data Analysis

Analysis of these data is on-going.