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Safe and Drug-Free Schools: Promising Prevention Practices
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Risk and Protective Factors

The risk and protective factors (related to substance abuse) have been organized into four general categories and include the following:



Community RISK Factors

Community PROTECTIVE Factors

  • Drugs and alcohol are easy to obtain
  • Drug and underage drinking laws are inadequate or poorly enforced
  • Community is disordered
  • Opportunities for bonding with, and engaging in, activities with family, school, and community
  • Anti-drug, anti-underage drinking community norms
  • Community norms on alcohol de-glamorize its use, restrict advertising
  • Awareness of laws
  • Low prevalence of neighborhood crime

School RISK Factors

School PROTECTIVE Factors

  • Early and persistent antisocial behavior
  • Academic failure beginning in late elementary school
  • Lack of commitment to school
  • Academic success
  • The reinforcement of life skills and drug/alcohol refusal skills
  • Strong student bonds to the school
  • Student has an identity and sense of achievement

Family RISK Factors

Family PROTECTIVE Factors

  • Parental drug use
  • Neutral or favorable parental attitude toward drug/alcohol use
  • A family history of substance abuse
  • Family structure and function problems
  • Strong bonds with the family
  • Parental monitoring with clear rules of conduct within the family unit
  • Involvement of parents in the lives of their children

Individual/Peer RISK Factors

Individual/Peer PROTECTIVE Factors

  • Biological predisposition
  • Shy, aggressive and irritable temperament at a young age
  • Mental disorders
  • Sensation seeking personality and behaviors
  • Low sense of self-esteem
  • Alienation and rebelliousness; anti-social attitudes
  • Early alcohol, tobacco and other drug use
  • Underestimation of the harm of drug/alcohol use
  • Friends who use drugs/alcohol, who favor drug/alcohol use, and/or have anti-social norms or attitudes
  • Effective socialization skills
  • Positive peer relationships
  • Self-esteem
  • Involvement in religious and pro-social activities

Research has shown that strengthening families, improving parenting skills, and helping families to establish strong, consistent norms about alcohol and other drug use can help prevent substance abuse, including underage drinking, as well as violence and other related problems. Some of the most effective prevention programs based on the risk and protective factor model may never mention "alcohol" or "substance abuse." Instead, they are designed to offset risk factors and strengthen the protective factors that help to prevent underage drinking and other problems.


Community How To Guide On.Prevention & Education, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.