|Risk and Protective Factors
Many different studies break down protective factors into various categories.
For this manual, the breakdown of the Comprehensive Strategy used by
the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
is employed. These categories are individual attributes, pro-social
bonding with family, teachers and friends, and healthy beliefs and clear
standards for behavior.
Attributes. There are several individual attributes, which are identified as protective
factors. Some protective factors identified are not possible to change.
For example, gender is considered a protective factor. Research
shows that girls coped better and had less "acting out"
behavior than boys when exposed to different stressors (Developmental
Research and Programming, Inc, 2000). Since the present target population
is girls, there is already one factor in place.
Intelligence is another protective factor over which one has no control. Although
one cannot change the intelligence of girls, there are things that
can be done to assist them in learning and self-confidence.
resilient temperament is also a protective factor. Some young people are simply born with
a pleasant disposition and were considered "easy" babies.
They were calm and easy to comfort and please. Temperament cannot
be changed but it should be recognized as a protective factor.
of the above attributes and protective factors are identified with
how children cope with stress. These attributes are within the child
and are characteristics within the personality of the child. They
qualities cannot be prescribed but can be enhanced in the lives of
as positive and protective attributes are social ability, humor,
personal confidence, acceptance, optimism, and faith in a higher power.
(Smith and Carlson, 1997). These attributes all contribute to the
self esteem of girls and enhance their resilience. There are numerous
factors which effect self esteem. While these factors are not necessarily
protective factors themselves, they are mitigating factors. These
mitigating factors include: a connection with an adult in a non-exploitive
relationship, school success, spiritual connection, and low family
stress (Flansburg, 2001). You will recognize most of the above as
the opposite of the many of the risk factors previously listed. Enhancing
these characteristics helps to improve a girl's ability to connect
with adults. This in turn better equips the female adolescent to seek
support when needed and develop bonds with pro-social adults.
with pro-social family members, teachers, or friends.
The family is the most important influence in the lives of children,
and is the first line of defense against delinquency and substance
abuse (Howell and Wilson, 1993). Families have the ability to serve
as a protective factor, which research shows can have a very positive
effect on the future of the child. Attachment to at least one parent has an immense effect on resilience in youth. Having a father present and being surrounded by non-conflicting relationships also
serves as a protective factor. Appropriate after school care and
daycare are also protective factors.
Teaching youth social and relational skills can enhance relationships
with family members, teachers, and friends. Family therapy and teaching
family problem solving skills can help reduce family conflict and
enhance relationships and bonding. Teaching girls bonding skills is
something that, while difficult, can be done. If the female adolescent
has never bonded with anyone, the task may be extremely difficult,
but she can be taught about trust and relationships in the context
of a healthy adult-child relationship.
Throughout one's work with girls there are the opportunities to recognize
their accomplishments. This kind of positive reinforcement and recognition
can serve not only to build self-esteem and self-worth in the adolescent
female, but will also enhance the adolescent's relationship with you,
Beliefs and Clear Standards for Behavior
Healthy beliefs and clear standards are protective factors, which
need to be reinforced from the family, school, peers and community.
A family with clear expectations and consistent rules and
discipline serve as a protective factor. Families can be provided
with the opportunities for active family involvement. They can be
taught the skills necessary to meet their family goals in a healthy
way. Clear and healthy beliefs can be taught and reinforced
and the family can be taught to recognize positive behaviors and reinforce
Outside the family, the school has the greatest influence on children
and adolescents. (Howell and Wilson, 1993). Academic success is a protective factor for which opportunities can be provided. Schools
should offer a structured opportunity to develop skills. Early identification
of problem behavior should be monitored and addressed. Special needs
should be evaluated. Achievements should be recognized and encouraged.
Providing opportunities for skill development will empower the child
throughout her life.
neighborhood and community beliefs can also serve as protective
factors and reinforce clear and healthy beliefs and standards. Low
tolerance for crime and delinquency send a clear message to our
youth. A community that bonds and is dedicated to the children can serve as a strong protective factor against delinquency.