Having studied Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) for many years, Dr. Angela Narayan, an assistant professor in the clinical child psychology doctoral program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver, felt like the field of child abuse prevention research was missing half the story by not also considering the impact of positive childhood experiences.  

Today, Dr. Narayan and the Promoting Resilience in Offspring and Targeting Early Childhood Trajectories (PROTECT) Lab at the University of Denver are leading a research effort focused on Protective Factors. The PROTECT Lab and their efficient yet effective methodologies for research and clinical purposes are working to assess the richness of behaviors, relationships and representations in parents and children – with a particular interest in instruments that can assess resilience processes in ethnically-diverse families.

One line of their work focuses on developing and validating the Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) scale, a 10-item checklist of favorable childhood experiences, relationships and resources that was first created and published by Dr. Narayan and colleagues in an article titled “Positive Childhood Experiences Predict Less Psychopathology and Stress in Pregnant Women with Childhood Adversity: A Pilot Study of the Benevolent Childhood Experiences Scale” (Narayan et al., 2017, Child Abuse and Neglect).

Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) are a counterpoint to ACEs, particularly useful to those in community mental health, pediatric and primary care screening and home visiting programs. After accounting for demographics and ACEs, this research has shown higher levels of BCEs significantly predict lower levels of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. This research also found that when someone experienced ACEs and not BCEs, there was evidence of aggressive behavior, alcohol abuse and substance use.

This BCEs research has highlighted “the pregnancy period as an opportune window to help buffer the transmission of trauma in families who are at risk for various types of adversity,” said Narayan during her keynote at the 2020 Strengthening Colorado Communities and Families Conference. The BCEs Screening Tool to build resilience in children and families’ lives features ten simple questions found to be culturally sensitive and applicable across a variety of demographic and socio-economic audiences.

If people working with children and families begin to incorporate the FREE BCEs screening tool, there is great potential to prevent child maltreatment and future chronic health problems, mental illness and substance misuse in adulthood, found to be present in the lives of adults who experienced a high number of adverse childhood experiences.

Dr. Angela Narayan

Dr. Angela Narayan

Assistant Professor, University of Denver

Dr. Angela Narayan is an assistant professor in the clinical child psychology doctoral program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver.

Narayan directs the Promoting Resilience in Offspring and Targeting Early Childhood Trajectories (PROTECT) Lab at the University of Denver examining the intergenerational transmission of risk and resilience from parents to children, with a particular focus on the perinatal period as a window of opportunity to buffer the transmission of trauma and promote resilience in both mothers and fathers, and their children. 

Strengthening Families Network

Illuminate Colorado coordinates the Colorado Strengthening Families Network, hosting a quarterly online learning community for professionals across sectors to stay on top of new research and best practices related to the protective factors.

Join the network to get invites to meetings and connect with others to share your work and learn from communities all across Colorado.

Strengthening Families Network Meeting

Monday, November 1, 2021



Strengthening Families Network Gets Back to BCEs

Dr. Narayan will join the November 1, 2021 Strengthening Families Network meeting to deliver a refresher on the BCEs tools, share new findings and provide an opportunity for attendees to discuss with peers how this research can be incorporated into the work they are doing with families to increase Protective Factors. During the November meeting, Dr. Narayan is also planning to discuss a conceptual framework for understanding intergenerational prevention strategies for deterring ACEs in families. Those who attend the meeting will have an opportunity to visit with Dr. Narayan in a smaller online setting, which will allow for questions and scenario work to improve application of how incorporating BCEs can strengthen families.

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