Positive Prevention Strategies

Several decades of research shows that some teens are more at risk for developing a substance abuse problem than other teens. Why is that? Well, there is no single factor. However, the more risk factors a teen has, the more likely he or she will abuse drugs or alcohol. Conversely, the fewer the number of risk factors, the less likely he or she will develop a drug or alcohol problem. Also, it’s important to recognize that even children raised in the same home may have varying levels of risk. Read more at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids website.

The Risk and Protective Factor Model of Prevention

Risk factors are characteristics of school, community, and family environments, as well as characteristics of students and their peer groups that are known to predict increased likelihood of drug use, delinquency, school dropout, teen pregnancy, and violent behavior among youth. Dr. J. David Hawkins, Dr. Richard F. Catalano and their colleagues at the University of Washington, Social Development Research Group have investigated the relationship between risk and protective factors and youth problem behavior. For example, they have found that children who live in families with high levels of conflict are more likely to become involved in problem behaviors such as delinquency and drug use than children who live in families with low levels of family conflict.

Protective factors exert a positive influence or buffer against the negative influence of risk, thus reducing the likelihood that adolescents will engage in problem behaviors. Protective factors identified through research reviewed by Drs. Hawkins and Catalano include social bonding to family, school, community and peers; healthy beliefs and clear standards for behavior; and individual characteristics. For bonding to serve as a protective influence, it must occur through involvement with peers and adults who communicate healthy values and set clear standards for behavior.

Research on risk and protective factors has important implications for prevention efforts. The premise of the risk and protective factor model is that in order to promote positive youth development and prevent problem behaviors, it is necessary to address those factors that predict the problem behaviors. By measuring risk and protective factors in a population, prevention programs can be implemented that will reduce the elevated risk factors and increase the protective factors. For example, if academic failure is identified as an elevated risk factor in a community, then mentoring, tutoring and increased opportunities and rewards for classroom participation can be provided to improve academic performance.

40 Developmental Assets for Early Childhood (ages 3-5)
40 Developmental Assets for Children K-3 (ages 5-9)
40 Developmental Assets for Middle Childhood (ages 8-12)
40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents (ages 12-18)
Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse
This handy page from the National Institute of Drug Abuse covers the basics of reducing risk for your kids through positive family actions: communication, encouragement, negotiation, setting limits, and supervision. Check out the Checkup!

Family Checkup