Successful Prevention of Youth High-Risk Behaviors
Reducing the "risk factors" in the environments of children that increase the odds they will become involved in high-risk behavior, while increasing the "protective factors" that buffer children from the full impact of risk factors and other life stress should be the goal of every family, school, and youth-serving community organization.
The risk and protective factors listed below are based on hundreds of studies. Researchers* offer several recommendations for minimizing youth involvement in high risk behavior and maximizing life success. These recommendations include:
- increase pro-social bonds
- teach "life" skills, such as refusal, negotiation, and decision-making skills
- set and enforce clear expectations for behavior
- provide caring and support
- set high expectations for success
- provide opportunities for meaningful involvement
What Are the Factors Most Highly Correlated with the Prevention of Youth Substance Use?
Although prevention programs target people of all ages, many programs focus on young people. Because of this, it is useful to know which protective factors are important to youth, and which risk factors have the highest correlation to alcohol and other drug use among youth.
The following protective factors help young people resist substance use:
The Five Core Protective Factors
- Strong bonds exist between youth and adults
- Youth gain the skills necessary for becoming a mature adult
- There are opportunities for youth to have meaningful involvement in the community
- Such involvement is recognized
- Healthy beliefs and clear standards are communicated and modeled
Developmental Research and Programs, Inc
Risk and Resource Assessment, May 1994
The risk factors which have the highest correlation to alcohol and other drug use among youth are as follows:
- Alcohol and other drugs are readily available
- Community laws and norms are favorable toward drug use
- Family member has a history of alcohol and other drug abuse
- Parents use drugs, involve youth in their use (“get me a beer, would you?) or tolerate use by youth
- Students lack commitment or sense of belonging to school. Note: not as strong a correlation as the others on this list.
- Young person thinks most friends use
- Young person thinks alcohol and other drug use is “cool”
- Person begins using at a young age