Prevention: Risk and Protective Factor Theory

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More than 20 years of research has examined the characteristics of effective prevention programs. One component shared by effective programs is a focus on risk and protective factors that influence drug use. Protective factors are characteristics that decrease an individual’s risk for a substance abuse disorder. They include:

  • Strong and positive family bonds
  • Parental monitoring of children's activities and peers
  • Clear rules of conduct that are consistently enforced within the family
  • Involvement of parents in the lives of their children
  • Success in school performance; strong bonds with institutions, such as school and religious organizations
  • Adoption of conventional norms about drug use

Risk factors increase the likelihood of substance abuse problems and include:

  • Chaotic home environments, particularly in which parents abuse substances or suffer from mental illnesses
  • Ineffective parenting, especially with children with difficult temperaments or conduct disorders
  • Lack of parent-child attachments and nurturing
  • Inappropriately shy or aggressive behavior in the classroom
  • Failure in school performance
  • Poor social coping skills
  • Affiliations with peers displaying deviant behaviors
  • Perceptions of approval of drug-using behaviors in family, work, school, peer, and community environments

Source: NIDA Notes (2002). Risk and Protective Factors in Substance Abuse Prevention, 16(6), Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_Notes/NNVol16N6/Risk.html

http://www.drugabuse.gov/Prevention/risk.html

The National Institute of Drug Abuse describes the following principles for adhering to the risk and protective factors model in prevention programs:

PRINCIPLE 1 - Prevention programs should enhance protective factors and reverse or reduce risk factors.

  • The risk of becoming a drug abuser involves the relationship among the number and type of risk factors (e.g., deviant attitudes and behaviors) and protective factors (e.g., parental support).

  • The potential impact of specific risk and protective factors changes with age. For example, risk factors within the family have greater impact on a younger child, while association with drug-abusing peers may be a more significant risk factor for an adolescent.

  • Early intervention with risk factors (e.g., aggressive behavior and poor self-control) often has a greater impact than later intervention by changing a child’s life path (trajectory) away from problems and toward positive behaviors.

  • While risk and protective factors can affect people of all groups, these factors can have a different effect depending on a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, culture, and environment.

PRINCIPLE 2 - Prevention programs should address all forms of drug abuse, alone or in combination, including the underage use of legal drugs (e.g., tobacco or alcohol); the use of illegal drugs (e.g., marijuana or heroin); and the inappropriate use of legally obtained substances (e.g., inhalants), prescription medications, or over-the-counter drugs.

PRINCIPLE 3 - Prevention programs should address the type of drug abuse problem in the local community, target modifiable risk factors, and strengthen identified protective factors.

PRINCIPLE 4 - Prevention programs should be tailored to address risks specific to population or audience characteristics, such as age, gender, and ethnicity, to improve program effectiveness.


 

Substance Abuse Prevention

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Last updated April 02, 2010