Publication Details

C. Young, J. C. Craig, K. Clapham, S. Williams & A. Williamson, "Stressful life events and resilience among carers of Aboriginal children in urban settings: cross sectional findings from the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH)", BMJ Open 8 (2018) e021687-1-e021687-12.


Objective: In caregivers of urban Aboriginal children, to determine the frequency of major stressful life events, the proportion who meet criteria for resilience, and factors that are associated with resilience.

Design: Cross-sectional survey. Setting Four Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services located in urban or regional areas in New South Wales, Australia.

Participants: 574 caregivers of Aboriginal children participating in the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health.

Primary outcome measure: Resilience, defined as having experienced three or more stressful life events in the last 12 months, and having scores of ≤21 on the Kessler 10 Psychological Distress scale.

Results: Over half (315, 55%) of the caregivers reported three or more stressful life events-the most common being a close family member who was hospitalised with a serious medical problem (259, 45%). Of the participants who experienced three or more stressful life events, almost three-quarters (227, 72%) met the criteria for resilience. Using multivariable analysis, two factors were independently associated with resilience: not having a physical health problem that limited normal activities (adjusted OR (aOR) 4.3; 95% CI 2.0 to 9.0), and not having problems caused by alcohol within the home (aOR 5.3; 95% CI 2.2 to 12.8). Having a child whose behaviour placed a great deal of burden on the family was associated with less resilience (aOR 0.25; 95% CI 0.09 to 0.68).

Conclusions: Caregivers of urban Aboriginal children experienced a large number of stressful events, the most common being the poor health of close family members, but most exhibited resilience. Resilience was associated with stable family environments and good physical health. The high number of stressful life events that caregivers experience is reflective of broader inequalities that Aboriginal communities face. The availability of easily accessible and long-term health and support services may go some way to reducing this inequality and improving social and emotional well-being for Aboriginal families.

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