The importance of protective factors in the environment cannot be over emphasized. They can make all the difference between positive or negative outcomes in child development. Decisions and behaviors with regard to substance use and other high risk behaviors are found to be associated with a constellation of risk and protective factors. These factors have come to be regarded as a “descriptive and predictive framework” within which prevention theory and prevention programs are elaborated. (CSAP Science-Based Prevention Programs and Principles 2002, 2003:3)
The web of influence which affects each individual and group includes individual, family, school, peer and community factors. Among the personal “individual” characteristics that impact decisions and behaviors are personality traits like a tendency toward sensation-seeking, mental health status, and religiosity. Influences within the family include parent-child bonding, parenting practices, parental substance use, and family size. Influences related to a child’s school experience include the quality of the bond formed between the child and school, academic performance, safety versus conflict in the school climate, and enforcement of clear policies. Pressure from peers and positive peer modeling are among peer influences predictive of abstinence from or involvement with drugs. The availability of drugs in the community, norms of use (e.g., adult use and attitudes, and community policies and enforcement), advertising and socioeconomic circumstances all contribute to the influence of community on its individual members. (CSAP 2003:4-9) These are only a few selected examples of how these factors influence youth behaviors with regard to drug use and other risky behaviors.