Skeleton Policy Brief: Adversity in Childhood

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Many children are exposed to adverse life events; which can have serious developmental consequences. Adverse events include abuse, neglect, bereavement, parental separation or serious illness, or environmental stressors such as poverty, or natural disasters (see for review Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Grief Network, n.d.; Olesen et al, 2010). Nearly a quarter of Australian children live in a household experiencing severe financial hardships, and another quarter live with the stress of a parent with a serious and long-term health condition (Olesen et al., 2010). Such experiences can have immediate and long-term effects on the health and wellbeing of a child. For example, children exposed to adversity are at greater risk of health, social and behavioural difficulties in childhood, and poorer outcomes throughout life (see for review Olesen et al., 2010). Clearly, experiencing such loss or trauma in childhood potentially impacts children’s health and wellbeing both in the long and short terms.

There is much variation in the outcomes for children who face adversity. Some children seem to cope very well, even in the face of extreme disadvantage, while others experience an array of negative outcomes. Given the prevalence of adverse life events for children in Australia today, it is important to understand the risk factors for negative outcomes to adversity in childhood. Such an understanding enables us to implement policies that may help protect children who face adversity. The aim of this assignment is to help you understand the risk that adverse life events can have on development. In this task, you will be asked to research the potential consequences for children facing adversity, and the factors that place children at risk of negative outcomes using the resources provided (i.e. no independent research is required). You will also draw on your understanding of emotional development to explain children’s detrimental responses to adversity.

This skeleton policy brief is an important formative assessment for your next assignment, where you will further explore the topic of children’s responses to adversity in a full-scale policy brief.

Readings: The core modules on emotional development available on CloudDeakin and the following:

Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Grief Network. (n.d.). Kids in rural and remote areas: Coping with tough times. rural-and-remote- areas-Coping-with-tough-times_0.pdf

Olesen, S. C., Macdonald, E., Raphael, B., & Butterworth, P. (2010). Children’s exposure to parental and familial adversities: Findings from a population of Australians. Family Matters, 84. adversities

Fergusson, D. M. & Horwood, J. (2003). Resilience to Childhood Adversity: Results of a 21-year study. In S. S. Luthar (2003), Resilience and vulnerability (pp. 132-133 & 143). =site&db=nlebk&AN=120646



This assignment is set out as a Skeleton Policy Brief (i.e., the bones of a Policy Brief).

Note that strict word limits are imposed.

In this assignment, it is acceptable to use secondary sources, that is, sources that are not the original empirical studies that reported the findings (including readings from your core reading list).

Your brief should have the following sections:

  1. Overview
a) What are the 5 most common causes of adversity in childhood?
To answer this question, use the information summarised in Table 3 in Olesen et al. (2010) and create a bar graph (Figure) illustrating the percentage of Australian children who face the 5 most common forms of adversity. You will need to include an introductory sentence to summarise/explain the graph’s information. We suggest you use approx. 30 words (plus the graph, which isn’t counted in the word count).


  1. b) Outcomes: What are some of the potential negative outcomes for children who face adversity?

Briefly (~50words) list 5 possible short term and long terms effects of adversity (total of 5) in childhood. Use the literature review offered in Olesen et al. (2010). Dot points are acceptable for brevity, though your dot points should be introduced by a brief sentence.

  1. Risk Factors
What are the risk factors for poor outcomes when experiencing adversity?
The risk factors should be summarised in a table with column headings: child factors, family/peer factors and socio-economic factors. To answer this question, refer to Luthar (2003), specifically, chapter 6, page 131-3 and chapter 10 (page 244-246). You will need to include an introductory sentence to summarise/ explain the information. To respond to this question we suggest you use 30 words (the Table is not included in the word count).



  1. Conceptualising the problem
Conceptualise the problem of children’s negative reactions to adversity from the perspective of emotional development.
  2. a) (250 words): Briefly define the four attachment styles and caregiver behaviours that influence attachment security. Briefly explain how a secure attachment style might increase children’s ability to cope with the types of adversity identified in Figure 1.
  3. b) (250 words): Use the construct of temperament to understand how the child’s own characteristics may play a role in their risk of negative outcomes to adversity.
  4. Recommendations

Take on the role of a public servant (e.g. a psychologist for the Department of Health) who has been asked to provide recommendations for the government. Drawing on risk factors and your conceptualisation of the problem, provide 2 ideas for policy (dot points is fine; these ideas will be fleshed out further in your next assignment).
Policy recommendations are: actionable; specific; have a target audience; supported by the theory or research you have discussed.

  1. Reflection: Key Selection Criteria 250 words.
While completing this assignment, you have achieved several unit learning outcomes (e.g., understanding child development) as well as graduate learning outcomes (such as critical thinking; digital literacy; problem solving). These skills and knowledge are transferable to the real-world, and can help you address selection criteria in future job applications. The aim of this section is to reflect on the skills that you have developed completing this assignment that can be transferred to the competitive job market.

Your Task: Find a job advertisement for your planned career and address a key selection criteria using this assignment to demonstrate your achievement of the target skill/s. Write in a format that could be copied and pasted to a future job application. Use the assignment within the STAR model (see below).

Students: select and respond to one key selection criteria.



Tips and tricks:

  • Use the ‘STAR’ model to respond to selection criteria. Key selection criteria are a set of transferable skills that job candidates are required to demonstrate in order to meet the basic requirements of the job they are applying for. It is not sufficient for job applicants to simply state that they possess the skills; they must demonstrate that they possess the skills. Many (if not most) employers prescribe a ‘STAR’ model for responding to key selection criteria in order to prompt applicants toward an evidence-based Applicants should respond to selection criteria by providing examples (in this case, the skeleton brief) of a Situation, Task, Action and Result (STAR) that demonstrate their capacity to fulfil the selection criteria in question.


The ideal application will be someone who has the following key skills and attributes:

  • High level written and verbal communication skills
  • Active learning skills (being able to understand the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making)
  • Critical thinking skills (using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems)

Price: £120

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