Substance abuse prevention is about so much more than simply telling kids not to use alcohol or other drugs. Effective prevention starts with identifying what children and youth in the community need, and then meeting that need with research-backed strategies.

Risk & Protective Factors: The Foundation for Effective Prevention

Risk factors are those things that increase the chance a child will become vulnerable to making risky or unhealthy decisions. A few risk factors include:

  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Feeling depressed or low
  • Rebelliousness
  • Parental or sibling drug abuse

In contrast, protective factors help lower the likelihood a child will be at risk. Examples of protective factors include:

  • Recognition for getting involved at school
  • Close family relationships
  • Friends with good social skills
  • Strong sense of morality
  • Volunteering or extracurricular activities

To prevent substance abuse and other risky behaviors, preventionists look at both sides of the equation, risk and protective factors, and weigh them against each other. Ideally, we’ll be able to lower risk factors; however, when that’s not possible, we leverage research-backed strategies to increase protective factors that help cancel out risk. At Compass Mark, we look specifically at the populations we serve in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties to design substance abuse prevention programs that address risk factors and/or boost protective factors.  Our team uses the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) as the foundation for our process. This statewide survey, which is distributed by the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency every two years, assesses youth in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 regarding their behavior and attitudes about alcohol, other drugs, violence, and more. The survey then calculates the percentage of youth at risk because of factors like parental attitudes toward drug abuse, depressive symptoms, handgun availability, and low neighborhood attachment. Likewise, it calculates the percentage of youth with protective factors such as belief in moral order, opportunities for prosocial involvement, and more. Here’s how it breaks down. You can click on each image for a larger viewing size. Substance abuse risk factors Substance abuse protective factors   You can review the youth survey findings for our area here: Lancaster County 2015 Youth Survey Lebanon County 2015 Youth Survey Learn more about Compass Mark and its work in Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) Prevention Programs: Long-Term Benefits. To chat with us about finding a substance abuse prevention program for your school, youth group, or organization, contact our team at 717-299-2831.     Feature image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net Risk & protective factor images sourced from the Lancaster County 2015 Youth Survey.  

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