Risk Factors

What is a risk factor?  A risk factor is a condition that increases the likelihood of a problem behavior.  Let’s use the example of heart problems, what are the risk factors?  Diet, smoking, family history, not exercising, and high cholesterol. All of those things increase our risk for having a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.  The more you have the more you are at risk.

The same goes for prevention science when you reduce the risk you reduce the problem behaviors. When we talk about prevention in youth behavior problems we thinks about the same thing, what are the risks and we know the more risks you have the more likely you are to have behavior problems.  When we address youth risk taking and substance use issues we first need to address the risk factors.

The Communities That Care prevention planning system focuses on building positive youth development by addressing risk and protective factors that are predictive of five adolescent problem behaviors:

• alcohol and other drug use

 • juvenile delinquency

 • dropping out of school

 • teen pregnancy

• youth violence

We know:

  1. Children are influenced by every domain they grow up in: family, community, school and friends
  2. These risk are present across all developmental phases
  3. Predict multiple problems
  4. Operate in a similar way across all racial groups and region of the country

The science of prevention applies to all communities, even if you think your community is unique, it is.  All communities are different and unique.  That is why it is so important to find your communities risk factors.

Below is a chart of risk factors and their definitions when we are talking about prevention in our communities.  These are the risks that a Communities That Care coalition address.

Guest post by: Kim Lefler

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