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1.  Introduction:  Why Environment Matters

Protective factors “counter risk factors and the more protective factors that are present, the less the risk.” (Hogan, et al. 2003:15)  Protective factors are sometimes referred to as assets; risk factors might be better referred to as challenges, since many of the risk factors in no way suggest current or future failures or problems.  For example, single parenthood can be associated with outstanding child-rearing practices and outcomes, yet no one can deny that single parents face greater challenges than do two-parent families.  

Risk and protective factors include individual, interpersonal, institutional, community, and cultural components, which are interwoven in our lives.  Interactions and relationships between these components are complex.  We know that they especially affect children and youth during their formative developmental years.  Aspects of individual personality, i.e., impulsivity or timidity, predispose a child to engage in risky behaviors or to be resilient. (August 2003)  Relationships with key individuals (e.g., parent, teacher, mentor and role model) strongly impact a child’s development.  Also, identification with certain organizations and institutions, and interactions with additional others, provide further influence and context:  “To a large extent, the outcomes of children and youth are determined by various community characteristics.” (CPRD 2001:9)  

DiClemente, Wingood, and Crosby suggest viewing the spheres of influence as concentric circles – individual, family, personal relationships, community and society – where behaviors are influenced within each spheres and even moreso by interactions between and among spheres.  (DiClemente, et al. 2003: 367-8)   The community sphere exerts influence through community norms, neighborhood/community cohesion, community prevention programs, school and institutional bonding, and social capital.  The societal sphere includes such factors

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