Cultivating Resiliency: Six Core Strengths for Healthy Child Development

  • Attachment: Making relationships
  • Self-Regulation: Holding impulses
  • Affiliation: Being part of a group
  • Attunement: Being aware of others
  • Tolerance: Accept differences
  • Respect: Finding value in differences


Adverse childhood experiences impact brain development and overall physical health. Children who have experienced significant adversity may have limited to no development in these core strength areas. The good news is, we can help them build each of these strengths through loving supportive relationships. Shaping your own behavior, environment, and activities to build on these strengths will greatly improve the health, happiness, and development of all children in your care.

Attachment: this is the cornerstone of all other strengths. It is important to know that without this foundation, without a strong emotional connection to the caregiver, all other interventions, tools, and strategies will ultimately be ineffective in meeting the needs of children affected by adversity. Positive attachment sets the foundation for future relationships, allowing the child to love, trust, and build friendships.

Self-Regulation: this refers to the ability to control primary urges such as hunger and sleep as well as feelings of anger, frustration, and fear. This ability is not innate for any of us, a child develops self-regulation first with external regulation from primary caregivers. Think of a mother who rocks her baby when he is upset. The mother’s rocking and physical closeness calms and regulates the infant. Healthy growth in this area depends on experience and brain maturation and is a life-long process.

Affiliation: also known as belonging and collaboration, this strength is exhibited in a child’s ability to join and contribute to a group. This strength allows children to feel included, connected and valued. The core strengths of attachment and self-regulation are essential to the development of affiliation.

Attunement: this strength involves a child’s ability to recognize the needs, interests, and strengths of others, in other words, the ability to take on another’s perspective. As children grow their capacity for recognizing the differences and similarities in others becomes more complex. When children develop healthy attunement they are less likely to exclude, tease, and act violently toward others.

Tolerance: this strength involves the ability to understand and accept the differences we see in others. This strength is developed through the attitudes modeled by adults. Children who are intolerant are more likely to act out through teasing, bullying, and violence.

Respect: this is the ability to find value in the differences of others. Like Affiliation, developing respect is a life-long process and this strength grows from the foundation of the previous strengths. Adults can model this strength by treating children with respect. Healthy development of the other 5 strengths allows children to develop respect naturally.


CA CCRRN & CA DSS. 2019. Trauma-Informed Care Training & Coaching Module One: Understanding the Impact of Trauma & identifying strategies to promote healing. CA Child Care Resource & Referral Network and CA Department of Social Services. San Francisco, CA.

Bilmes, Jenna. Beyond Behavior Management: the Six Life Skills Children Need. 2nd ed., Redleaf Press, 2012.

Perry, Bruce. Six Core Strengths for Healthy Child Development. 2002,

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