Risk factors are powerful tools for identifying the probability of problem behaviors. However, risk factors are only one half of the equation. Researchers hypothesized that if there are factors that can increase the probability for problem behaviors, there also should be factors that decrease the probability. The main thrust of this hypothesis was the observation that youth exposed to multiple risk factors often escaped their impact (Surgeon General, 2000). This observation led researchers to search for the characteristics or conditions that might confer resilience (i.e., factors that moderate or buffer the effects of risk) (Garmezy, 1985; Rutter, 1987; Werner, 1989). These protective or resiliency factors provide the explanatory force for why adolescents who face the same degree of risk may be affected differently.
Protective factors are conceptually distinct from risk factors, in that protective factors are characteristics or conditions that interact with risk factors to reduce their influence on violent behavior (Garmezy, 1985; Rutter, 1985; Stattin and Magnusson, 1996) and may or may not have a direct effect on violence ( Jessor et al., 1995; Stattin and Magnusson, 1996). The hypothesized interaction may take place in one of two ways. Protective factors may contribute to resilience either by exerting positive effects in direct opposition to the negative effects of risk factors (additive model) or by buffering individuals against the negative effects of risk factors (interactive model)
(Kirby and Fraser, 1997; Rutter, 1990). Empirical evidence supports the interactive model (Pollard, Hawkins, Arthur, 1999).
According to Garmezy (1985), there are three basic categories of protection: 1) dispositional attributes, 2) family milieu, and 3) social environment. These categories are defined and explained below:
Risk and protective factors are organized typically into the following life domains or spheres of influence, which are loosely identified by relational proximity, starting with the individual and extending outward in concentric circles to the community.
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