Policy Brief Discussion 3: Fragile Families

Policy Brief Discussion 3: Fragile Families

Martha Davis, Senior Program Officer

Every family should have the opportunity to raise their children in a nurturing environment that allows them to thrive. Unfortunately, in too many communities and within too many families, exposure to violence undermines this opportunity.

The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study is a fifteen-year study of a birth cohort of 5,000 children born in large cities across the United States. The study was designed to provide longitudinal information on factors that are known to impact a child’s development, including neighborhood conditions, socioeconomic status, parental health (including mental health), parental relationships, and social support.

As we work as a foundation to develop our strategy for overcoming our culture of violence and trauma—in pursuit of a Culture of Health—this study (and others) makes it clear that we will only be able to help reduce exposure to violence in early childhood if we simultaneously work to support parents to increase their own sense of security and safety. In other words, we are confident that strengthening families will decrease children’s exposure to violence and promote their flourishing.

What is also clear from the study is how deeply connected the prevalence, predictors and consequences of community violence, domestic violence and harsh parenting are; where there is one, there is more often the others. The report hammers home the need to breakdown the silos between those who are working on different “types” of violence using holistic strategies that recognize the deep connections between all types of violence and the need for coordinated efforts to increase safety and wellbeing.

Join the Discussion

We encourage you to review the recommendations resulting from the study, but we also want to encourage you to share your thoughts and suggestions in response to the following:

  • What needs to be done to break down the silos that exist between those working on community violence, domestic violence and parenting support?
  • What examples are there of models, programs or strategies that already are breaking down these silos?
  • What additional research needs to be done to further strengthen the argument that an integrated approach is what is needed?
  • What can the Foundation do to help strengthen vulnerable children and their families?
Jump to the discussion.

Summary of Fragile Families Study

Read The Future of Children's Rising from a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Health blog post.

Research shows that children raised in low-income families are exposed to more violence than children raised in high-income families. Violence, in turn, is known to be associated with children’s mental health and human capital development. This report summarizes key learning from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study about the prevalence, predictors, and consequences of children’s exposure to neighborhood violence, domestic violence, and parental violence (also referred to as ‘harsh parenting’), paying special attention to racial, ethnic, and nativity differences.

Read RWJF's Introduction to the Fragile Families Policy Brief

Download the Executive Summary (PDF)

Download the Full Policy Report (PDF)

Submit a question to the community or provide an answer to one of the questions below.


Policy Brief Discussion 3: Fragile Families

Additional Research to Strengthen the Argument

To the best of my knowledge, this report is among the first publications to synthesize what we know about violent environments and child wellbeing. Additional research would help strengthen the argument that an integrated approach is needed by helping us know when in a child's life various types of violence are most detrimental. This would give us a better idea of when and where to intervene so we can develop evidence-based ...more »

Submitted by (@gpace0)

Policy Brief Discussion 3: Fragile Families

Are long-term solutions and remediation the best we can do for today's children?

This study makes clear the damage done to child development and lifelong well-being to black families in disadvantaged neighborhoods where their exposure to community violence is shockingly high. Remedial or long term changes in communities are important, but the window to help kids during their critical early years is short. The evidence tells us we need to add an urgent focus on preventing or stopping stopping harmful ...more »

Submitted by (@samuels)

Policy Brief Discussion 3: Fragile Families

What examples are there of models, programs or strategies that already are breaking down these silos

The Academy on Violence and Abuse (www.avahealth.org) is an interdisciplinary, non-profit professional organization that brings together experts in the health impacts of violence and abuse from across disciplines and settings. This collaborative, research-focused group was created to address the concerns highlighted in a 2002 report released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) regarding the health impact of violence and ...more »

Submitted by (@candaceburton)

Policy Brief Discussion 3: Fragile Families

If violence is the symptom, what is the cure?

Community, domestic and parental violence are all symptoms of the same disease - trauma. 'Fight' is a trauma response and if you live in the survival part of your brain, as many survivors to, then everything will be seen as a potential threat with only one conditioned response - violence. There really is no separation between the types of violence, only that resilience depends on whether you have experienced a physical ...more »

Submitted by (@lgodbold)