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Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood, Chapter 2: Risk and Protective Factors


Research over the past three decades has identified many factors that can help differentiate individuals who are more likely to abuse drugs from those who are less likely to do so (Catalano et al., 2011; Hawkins et al., 1992). Risk factors are qualities of a child or his or her environment that can adversely affect the child’s developmental trajectory and put the child at risk for later substance abuse or other behavioral problems. Protective factors are qualities of children and their environments that promote successful coping and adaptation to life situations and change. Protective factors are not simply the absence of risk factors; rather, they may reduce or lessen the negative impact of risk factors (Cowen & Work, 1988; Garmezy, 1985; Hawkins et al., 1992; Rutter, 1985; Werner, 1989).