Key Concepts

When thinking about the Triangle, it's important to keep some related concepts in the back of your mind. The material here briefly introduces two of these:

Strengths vs Risk

When conducting an assessment, (which is based on a full understanding of what is happening to a child in the context of his or her family and the wider community), it is important that the nature of the interactions between the child, family and environmental factors are examined carefully, including both positive and negative influences. These will vary for each child. Nothing can be assumed; the facts must be sought and the meaning attached to them explored and weighed up with the family.

Sometimes assessments are seen largely in terms of a child or family's difficulties or problems, or the risks seen to be attached to particular behaviours or situations; what is working well or what may be acting as positive factors for the child and family may be overlooked.

The Ecological Approach

According to the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families, an ecological approach suggests that:

An understanding of a child must be located within the context of the child's family (parents or caregivers and the wider family) and of the community and culture in which he or she is growing up. The significance of understanding the parent-child relationship has long been part of child welfare practice: less so the importance of the interface between environmental factors and a child's development, and the infiuence of these environmental factors on parents' capacities to respond to their child's needs (Jack, 1997; Stevenson, 1998 and others). The association between economic disadvantage and the chances that children will fail to thrive (Utting, 1995) and the association between a teenager's friendship group and pro-social and anti-social behaviour (Rutter et al, 1998) are well researched. So is the impact on parenting capacity of a supportive wider family or of struggling to bring up children in impoverished living conditions. 'Living on a low income in a run down neighbourhood does not make it impossible to be the affectionate, authoritative parent of healthy, sociable children. But it does, undeniably, make it more difficult' (Utting, 1995, p. 40). Department of Health (2000)