Virginia Commonwealth University

Risk and Protective Factors

What are they?

Protective factors, also known as “assets,” are conditions that buffer children and youth from exposure to risk by either reducing the impact of the risks or changing the way that young people respond to risks. Protective factors identified through research include strong bonding to family, school, community and peers. These groups support the development of healthy behaviors for children by setting and communicating healthy beliefs and clear standards for children’s behavior. Young people are more likely to follow the standards for behavior set by these groups if the bonds are strong. Strong bonds are encouraged by providing young people with opportunities to make meaningful contributions, by teaching them the skills they need to be successful in these new opportunities, and by recognizing their contributions.

Risk factors are those conditions that increase the likelihood of a young person becoming involved in ATOD use, delinquency, school dropout and/or violence. For example, children living in families with poor parental monitoring are more likely to become involved in these problems.

Please note that most individuals at risk do not start engaging in risky behavior. Also, a risk factor for one person may not be for another.

Also keep in mind that the greater number of risk factors that are present in a child's life, the greater likelihood that child will engage in risky behavior. The same rule applies to multiple protective factors reducing the likelihood of risky behavior.

We provide for you two tables: the Scale Definitions of Risk and Protective Factors and the Risk and Protective Factor Framework.

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