Improving the lives of children and youth, especially those at risk, begins with limiting the impact of "risk factors" (conditions which endanger youth and lead them off track) and increasing exposure to "protective factors" (conditions that promote healthy behaviors and sound decision making). Programs that address these risk and protective factors can be identified through the Program Directory.
What Are Risk and Protective Factors?
Risk factors are conditions that increase the likelihood that youth will get into trouble or expose themselves to danger. Protective factors are safeguards that promote resiliency and enhance a young person's ability to resist risks or hazards and make good decisions. Like risk factors, protective factors can exist in—and be addressed by—individuals, families, communities, and institutions.
The greater the intensity or number of risk factors, the greater the likelihood that youth will engage in delinquent or other risky behaviors. Exposure to protective factors helps young people make better decisions, confront obstacles, and find the supports they need. They may prevent, diminish, or counteract the effects of risk factors.
Families and communities are key to enhancing positive youth development when they provide strong parenting, good adult role models, dependable sources of adult supervision, a strong sense of community, safe neighborhoods, and effective community-based and government services.
Proven Risk and Protective Factors
|Risk Factors||Protective Factors|
Arthur, M. W., J. D. Hawkins, J. A. Pollard, R. F. Catalano, A. J. Baglioni, Jr. (2002), "Measuring Risk and Protective Factors for Substance Use, Delinquency, and Other Adolescent Problem Behaviors. The Communities That Care Survey," Evaluation Review, 26(6):575-601.
Catalano, R. F., J. D. Hawkins (1996), "The Social Development Model: A Theory of Antisocial Behavior." In J. D. Hawkins (ed.), Delinquency and Crime: Current Theories (pp. 149-197), New York: Cambridge University Press.
Guo, J., J. D. Hawkins, K. G. Hill, R. D. Abbott (2001), "Childhood and Adolescent Predictors of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence in Young Adulthood," Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62(6):754-762.
Hawkins, J. D., R. F. Catalano, et al. (1992), Communities That Care, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hawkins, J. D., M. L. Van Horn, M. W. Arthur (2004), "Community Variation in Risk and Protective Factors and Substance Use Outcomes," Prevention Science, 5(4):213-220.
Howell, J. C. (2003), Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework, Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Howell, J. C., A. Egley, Jr. (2005), "Moving Risk Factors Into Developmental Theories of Gang Membership," Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 3(4):334-354.
Kegler, M. C., R. F. Oman, S. K. Vesely, K. R. McLeroy, C. B. Aspy, S. Rodine, L. Marshall (2005), "Relationships Among Youth Assets and Neighborhood and Community Resources," Health Education and Behavior, 32(3):380-397.
Kirby, L. D., M. W. Fraser (1997), "Risk and Resilience in Childhood." In M. W. Fraser (ed.), Risk and Resilience in Childhood (pp. 10-33), Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.
Stouthamer-Loeber, M., R. Loeber, E. Wei, D. P. Farrington, P. H. Wikstrom (2002), "Risk and Promotive Effects in the Explanation of Persistent Serious Delinquency in Boys," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(1):111-123.
Stouthamer-Loeber, M., E. Wei, R. Loeber, A. S. Masten (2004), "Desistance From Persistent Serious Delinquency in the Transition to Adulthood," Development and Psychopathology, 16:897-918.