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Risk & Protective Factors

Risk & Protective Factors

There are many ideas and feelings about what makes certain communities and individuals more vulnerable to substance use, but the Risk & Protective Factors model of prevention uses science to take guess work out of the equation.

This evidence-based model is actually able to predict susceptibility to substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, school drop-out, violence and mental health issues!

The more risk factors that are present in a young person’s life, the more likely they are to develop lasting serious health or behavioral problems.

Everyday Prevention

Most likely, you’re already an everyday prevention scientist – using Risk & Protective Factors to make important life changes. For example, think about the factors that put us at higher risk for heart disease:

  • High Cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Can you think of others? Have you made changes in your behavior or diet to reduce your own risks for heart disease? Monroe Community Coalition uses this same principle to decrease our community’s chances of growing young people who abuse drugs, engage in violence, or drop-out of high school.

Protective Factors Outweigh Risk Factors

This graph shows the results of a multi-state study involving more than 60,000 kids. It gives great insight into how risk and protective factors are related to youth marijuana use.

R&PFactor Graph

On the left side of the graph, we see the prevalence of marijuana use as the percent of students who report using it.  On the bottom we see the number or risk factors present in a young person’s life.

The first thing you might notice is: The more risk factors to which children are exposed, the more likely they are to report using marijuana. The converse is also true: the fewer risk factors to which a young person is exposed, the less likely they are to use marijuana (with no risk factors, its nearly zero percent!).

The graph also shows us how protective factors influence marijuana use. The blue line shows youth with the least protection and the black and red lines show youth with the most protection.  Looking at this, what conclusion would you draw about how protective factors influence marijuana use?

Vulnerability in Monroe

The Coalition uses Healthy Youth Survey and other data sources to identify strategies and programs that will impact the areas where young people in our community are most vulnerable. (Click the image to enlarge it.)


The highlighted rows are our most prevalent risk factors. The checked columns show the types of problem behaviors these risk factors are known to influence.

We know that targeting 1) these risk factors will impact community rates of 2) underage drinking, marijuana, vape and other drug use, as well as depression. Reducing these problem behaviors will lead to a reduction in 3) violence, crime, teen pregnancy, school dropout and the development of mental health problems.

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