Risk Factors and Protective Factors New


Argosy University

PSY 370

Drug use among adolescents is present among all genders, races, socioeconomic statuses, educational levels, and cultures. Risk factors and protective factors are characteristics present in an individual’s life that have shown a correlation between drug use and unhealthy behaviors. The more risk factors present the more likely the involved in antisocial behavior. Although the more protective factors present the less likely to be involved in antisocial behavior(Burkholder, Schensul, & Pino, 2011). In the case study of Aaliyah, a 25 year old, single, Caucasian woman, and left her parents’ house at the age of 18 to get away from her father’s alcoholism. She now lives in an apartment with a friend and is currently pursuing a degree in criminal justice while she is working full time as an administrative assistant with a contracting company that she does not like. Aaliyah smokes cigarettes and drinks alcohol occasionally. During her first semester at school, Aaliyah has been having difficulty staying awake after work to complete her schoolwork. She is concerned about her grades falling, as her education is very important to her. However, she cannot afford to cut back on her hours at work. Due to her roommate drinking coffee at night help her stay awake, Aaliyah begins drinking three or more cups of coffee as well. This has helped her to stay awake at night so that she can complete her schoolwork. This paper will identify and analyze Aaliyah’s risk and protective factors for drug use now and in the future.

Risk Factors and Protective Factors

Over the past fifty years, extensive research has shown a strong connection between specific social conditions, personal characteristics, experiences and the involvement in unhealthy activities identified as risk and protective factors. These studies have shown that risk and protective factors in adolescents are likely to use cigarettes, drink alcohol, and smoke marijuana as well as engage in other antisocial behaviors, such as vandalism, stealing, fighting, and early sexual behavior, characteristics refer to as unhealthy activities and behaviors (Hart, Ksir, & Ray, 2008).

Risk factors are “individual attribute, individual characteristic, situational condition, or environmental context that increases the probability of drug use or abuse or a transition in level of involvement with drugs” and participate in unhealthy activities (Burkholder, Schensul, & Pino, 2011 p25). Some risk factors include the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, violence, suicide, or early sexual activity. The more risk factors that are present in a child’s life, the greater the possibility the child will develop problems and engage in unhealthy activities in adolescence (ADBH, 2011).

Protective factors are characteristics that an individual or conditions present a family, school or community that help someone cope successfully and build resiliency in dealing with life challenges. When an individual is able to successfully deal with their problems and current risk factors, they are less likely to get involved in unhealthy behavior (ADBH, 2011. “Protective factors are instrumental in healthy development; they build resiliency, coping skills and connections” (ADBH, 2011 p 2).

Case study of Aaliyah

In the case of Aaliyah, some of her risk factors include an alcoholic father, currently smoke cigarettes and drinks alcohol occasionally. In addition, she is currently having some stress due to her work and class schedule being full. Aaliyah has begun to drink three cups or more of coffee to stay awake to complete her classwork. However some of her protective factors include she has removed herself from her father’s alcoholic abuse and is living with a friend. In additional, is continuing her education to gain a degree in Criminal justice so that she can get a better job.

Research has found that if a child is raised in a family with a history of alcohol addiction, it increase the likelihood that the child will also have an addiction to alcohol as well (ADBH, 2011). Currently Aaliyah does drink occasionally but she is at risk for turning this into an addiction. Another risk factor that is of concern for Aaliyah is her work and school stress. Studies has shown that students who work 20 hours or more per week for pay during the school year were associated with higher levels of emotional distress which leads to substance use. Aaliyah has already is having difficulties with her work schedule and completing her classwork (ADBH, 2011). With these to risk factors already present, Aaliyah is at risk for following in her father’s footsteps of becoming an alcoholic, something she did like when she was living with her father.

Other risk factors that are not listed in this case study is her family dynamics. With her father’s alcoholism there most likely family conflict. This family conflict puts the child at an increased risk for developing unhealthy behavioral problems and activities. Whether the family consists of two biological parents, a single parent, or some other primary caregiver appears to matter less than whether the children experience much conflict in their families (ADBH, 2011). In addition, with this family conflict was Aaliyah abused? Did her mother protector her? What were the circumstances for her leaving when she was 18 years old? With these risk factors unknown, it hard to say how these will influence Aaliyah.

On the plus side, she does have some protective factors present. According to past research, having a positive connection to another, having life skills, social competency, and meaningful engagement in activities (ADBH, 2011). Aaliyah has been living on her own since she was 18 years old and is living with her friend, as well as going to college. With these protective factors is place, it is possible that she can overcome the risk factors.

Additional protective factors would be Aaliyah involvement in other activities in her community such as church or clubs. Her involvement in these activities help her to be connected to positive influences. If she becomes too overwhelmed, her connection to these activities will help. Having a connection to her community as well as a religious connection will give Aaliyah a support system and help build her resiliency and coping skills (Burkholder, Schensul, & Pino, 2011).

Risk and protective factors implications for future substance use

The connection between risk factors and protective factors in not a simple and direct answer. The risk and protective factors for each individual differentially predict future use of alcohol or drugs. By taking into account risk factors as well as protective factors can help predicts whether children will develop prosocial or antisocial behavior, as they get older. The study by Burkholder, Schensul, & Pino (2011) showed that the social development model moderate the effects of risk factors. Common protective factors identified as parental monitoring, connectedness to a parent or adult, school engagement, and their future expectations. Not knowing how connected Aaliyah is to her mother, it is hard to say how her risk factors will impact her future use of alcohol or drugs. The identification of risk factors in the early adolescence can help isolate substance use. “Adolescence is crucial time for the prevention of substance use disorders because substance use increases throughout adolescence until it peaks in young adulthood” (Burkholder, Schensul, & Pino, 2011). All studies conclude that early prevention is the key to avoid later problems in adulthood. Based on the case study it looks like Aaliyah does have some risk factors present, but she also has many protective factors that will help her.