1. Introduction: Why Environment Matters, cont.
By definition culture refers to behaviors and knowledge that are learned and systematic, and that are transmitted from one generation to the next. (UCSB 2004) Herskovits’ classic definition states that “culture is the man-made part of the environment.” (Herskovits 1960:17) As such, cultures are not static but ever-changing. Culture includes those non-material facets such as values, customs, beliefs and traditions passed on consciously and unconsciously to children by parents, family members, teachers, significant others, and through society via the group(s) the person belongs to and comes to identify with. Because cultures are dynamic and subject to human influence, prevention professionals and practitioners have the opportunity to intervene in a positive fashion to shape a community’s norms and culture, that is, the values, customs, beliefs and traditions related to substance use. Indeed, this is our challenge! Some examples of prevention efforts aimed at this community-level goal include policy adaptation and enforcement (e.g., to reduce youth access to tobacco and alcohol), social norms marketing, media advocacy and counter-advertising media campaigns (CPRD 2001:13-33) Some prevention efforts target an individualized environment and others a shared environment; but in either case the aim is to alter the environment to foster a healthy lifestyle and reduce or eliminate high risk behaviors. (Brounstein, et al. 1998). The social norms approach is an example of a science-based approach that is increasingly embraced by prevention (Perkins 2003:xv)
It is instructive to consider the risk/protective factors associated with the five domains in relationship to the particular culture where the prevention professional is working. The protective/risk factors reveal aspects of the culture, the norms of the environment defined by that sphere or domain. A risk or protective factor may pertain to a tiny subset of the population or be typical of an entire neighborhood or larger community. In the family domain, a child is protected by an environment where parental monitoring is the child-rearing norm and an accepted cultural practice; in contrast, a child is placed at risk by an environment lacking parental monitoring. In the school domain a norm of anti-drug use (policies and enforcement) protects a child from the