Youths who are involved in illegal activities, such as underage drinking and driving, often have risk factors that tip the tables of likelihood toward delinquent behaviors. On the other side of the matter are the protective factors that can help the juvenile to stay away from delinquent behaviors that can lead to an involvement in the juvenile justice system.
There are four domains in which risk and protective factors are documented. These four domains are the individual, the family, peers and outside influences.
For the individual domain, having a high IQ, being affiliated with clubs or religious organizations, having positive social skills and being willing to please adults are considered protective factors. Risk factors include hyperactivity, early anti-social behavior and poor cognitive development.
A strong family bond and positive family role models are protective factors in the family domain. Risk factors in this area include poverty, large family size, anti-social behavior by the parents, discord in the home, divorce, exposure to family violence, abuse and other similar factors.
Having positive influences in the peer circle and having safe activities to participate in are the protective factors in the peer domain. Gang involvement, spending time with other juvenile delinquents and negative social experiences are the risk factors in this domain. For example, hanging out with other underage drinkers would increase the chance that a juvenile would consume alcohol.
Outside influences, including school and community influences, that are protective factors include living in a safe community, going to a safe school and being involved in a school that meets all of the student’s needs including social, learning, emotional and academic. Risk factors here include living in an impoverished area, having poor motivation, not performing well in school, attending an unsafe or unsuitable school and living in a socially disorganized community.
For juveniles who are already involved in the juvenile justice system or the criminal justice system, increasing the protective factors and decreasing the risk factors can often make a difference. In some cases, the juvenile justice system might be able to provide some solutions as part of the resolution of the case.
Source: Youth.gov, “Risk & Protective Factors,” accessed June 28, 2016