Family and relationship services may increase protective factors for children and families at high risk of health and social problems

Family and relationship services and relationship-based prevention and early intervention programmes can address many risk processes that lead to health and social problems, while also building supportive relationships.

Social attachments and support have been described as important protective factors for ensuring mental health, well-being and quality of life. Commonly cited as a buffering mechanism against the experience of stressful and adverse life events, social support is often provided within social networks (Heerde, Toumbourou, Hemphill & Olsson, 2015) to provide mutual assistance and support to manage and reduce the impact of stressful events.

Social support lends itself to the potential role of family and relationship services intervening early at the onset of problems and have been associated with reduced anxiety (e.g. Lewinsohn, Gotlib, Lewinsohn, Seeley & Allen, 1998), depressive symptoms (e.g. Stice, Ragan & Randall, 2004), suicidal ideation (Sheeber, Hops, Alpert, Davis & Andrew, 1997) and substance use (e.g. Wills & Vaughan, 1989).

Many cost-effective family and relationship services have an explicit role in building social support to assist individuals and families through vulnerable life transitions.

Family and relationship services play a vital role in reducing health and social problems by:

  • assisting family members to understand and better develop social supports required for health and well-being;
  • and building social network for people that are vulnerable by virtue of problems such as an absence of parent role models.

Many of the health and social problems Australia currently faces are preventable. Focused support of the Family and Relationships Services sector can reduce the risks that lead to wider health and social problems, while also building supportive relationships.


  • Toumbourou, J., Hartman, D., Field, K., Jeffery, R., Brady, J., Heaton, A., Ghayour-Minaie, M., & Heerde, J. (2017). Strengthening prevention and early intervention services for families into the future. Deakin University and Family and Relationships Services Australia (FRSA)


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