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Risk Factors

Risk factors include those individual or social factors associated with an increased likelihood of a negative outcome. Risk Factors can be related to biological, behavioral, and social/environmental characteristics. They include characteristics such as family history, depression or residence in neighborhoods where substance abuse is tolerated. Research supports the idea that the more factors that place the child at risk for substance abuse, the more likely it is she or he will experience substance use.

                                          Community Environment

  • Rebelliousness
  • Friends who engage in the problem behavior
  • Favorable attitudes about the problem behavior
  • Early initiation of the problem behavior
  • Negative relationships with adults
  • Risk-taking propensity/impulsivity
  • Association with delinquent peers who use or value dangerous substances
  • Association with peers who reject mainstream activities and pursuit
  • Susceptibility to negative peer pressure
  • Easily influenced by peers
  • Lack of self-control, assertiveness and peer refusal skills
  • Early antisocial behavior such as lying, stealing and aggression, often combined with hyperactivity
  • Availability of drugs
  • Community laws, norms favorable toward drug use
  • Extreme economic and social deprivation
  • Transition and mobility
  • Low neighborhood attachment and community disorganization
  • Impoverishment
  • Unemployment and underemployment
  • Discrimination
  • Pro-drug use messages in the media
  • Community disorganization
  • Lack of cultural pride
  • Inadequate youth services and opportunities for pro-social involvement

Protective Factors

Protective factors appear to balance and buffer the negative impact of existing risk factors. Protective factors, such as solid family bonds and the capacity to succeed in school, help safeguard youth from substance abuse. In other words, building up a child's protective factors may decrease their likelihood of substance use, even if risk factors are present. Conversely, decreasing a child's risk factors can substantially lower their likelihood of future substance abuse.

       Family Relationships                               School Environment

  • Bonding (positive attachments)
  • Healthy beliefs and clear standards for behavior
  • High parental expectations
  • A sense of basic trust
  • Positive family dynamic
  • Opportunities for prosocial involvement
  • Rewards/recognition for prosocial involvement
  • Healthy beliefts and clear standards for behavior
  • Caring and support from teachers and staff
  • Positive instructional climate

                                   Community Environment

  • Opportunities for prosocial involvement
  • Rewards/recognition for prosocial involvement
  • Healthy beliefs and clear standards for behavior
  • Positive sense of self
  • Negative attitudes about drugs
  • Positive relationship with adult
  • Association with peers who are involved in school, recreation, service, religion, or other organized activities
  • Resistance to peer pressure, especially negative
  • Not easily influenced by peers
  • Opportunities for participation as active members of the community
  • Decreasing substance accessibility
  • Cultural norms that set high expectations for youth
  • Social networks and support systems with the community
  • Media literacy (resistance to pro-use messages)
  • Decreased accessibility
  • Increased pricing through taxation
  • Raised purchasing age and enforcement
  • Stricter driving-while-under-the-influence laws

Risk and Protective Factors for Alcohol Abuse Among Older Adults

Risk Factors

  • Isolation: Older adults who are isolated from family members, friends, or communities are identified as most at risk for abusing alcohol.
  • Loss: Older adults experiencing declining health and shrinking social networks are at greater risk.
  • Memory loss: Older adults who experience impaired memory may fail to keep track of number of alcoholic beverages they have consumed or they are at risk for dangerously mixing prescription drugs and alcohol.

Protective Factors

  • Community Involvement
  • Social connections
  • Finding a purpose and remaining productive in later life/high degree of life satisfaction
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