Risk and protective factors can be reliable predictors of life outcome, and it’s important to understand the complicated interaction between these factors and overall life course.
Research has shown that childhood challenges can lead to many types of adult adversities, so reducing risk and enhancing protective factors can lower the likelihood of adolescent depression, significantly altering the rest of a person’s life.
1. Risks and Protective Factors
By identifying valuable resources in children’s lives, we can predict the successful adjustment of people who experience adversity. We can also define models demonstrating how certain protective factors lead to better adjustment to life stress.
Studies show that many children who have experience early trauma demonstrate normal, or near normal, functioning after exposure to more supportive environments. Even children who come from deprived institutional settings like state homes or orphanages seem to catch up both cognitively and physically once they are placed in environments that foster their strengths.
2. The Model
We can show how early diagnosis of risky behaviors contributes to positive adult adjustment. This is done by developing a model correlating the risk factors mentioned previously with a range of environmental factors that influence functioning.
Biological, psychological, and social factors tend to affect an adult’s ability to function over time, and the outcome of an at-risk youth can be determined by examining things like competence, resilience, and empowerment.
If we have an appreciation for the overall state of wellness of the child, we can begin to strengthen and compensate for the presence of risks.
3. Wellness as a Foundation for Research
While the concept of wellness may be somewhat abstract, psychologists rely on varying factors that have been proven to alter development and life course to develop a consistent model to ensure psychological health.
Protective factors and personal strengths fall into this overall concept of wellness. By developing healthy environmental systems and promoting positive wellbeing, we can reduce risky and dysfunctional behavior. We must emphasize the importance of interacting with positive influences at home, at school, and with other peers.
4. Symptom Relief as a Treatment Method
While we currently have methods of measuring weaknesses like poor adaptation, inadequate adjustment, distress, and life problems, we need better ways of measuring strengths like adaptation, stress hardiness, and the qualities needed to deal with and overcome adversity.
By identifying these strengths in conjunction with risky behaviors early on, we can implement changes in the lives of children and help them deal effectively with challenging environmental circumstances, leading to a reduction in symptomatic responses. In this way, we affect the outcome of their behavior in the future and alter the course of their adult lives.
5. RISE (Risk Inventory and Strengths Evaluation)
It’s vital to assess risky behaviors and personal strengths within the context of one another. While a single traumatic event wouldn’t necessarily lead to a poor outcome, the persistent presentation of stressors is much more likely to alter life course in a negative direction.
Risk is identified by three factors: external risk instead of protection, vulnerability instead of invulnerability, and a lack of resilience instead of resilience. The assumption is that if we increase the protection of children who exhibit these risks, we can improve resilience and decrease vulnerability, mitigating risks and leading to a more favorable outcome.
We provide additional protection by limiting exposure to stressors. This could include a change of environment, such as being adopted out of a highly volatile institutional setting, or an increase in positive influences that can help the child deal with environmental triggers.
By assisting in the development of emotional, behavioral, academic, and interpersonal competence, children facing risk and adversity begin to have confidence in their ability to overcome their circumstances
6. Moving Forward
RISE is a unique assessment measuring both high-risk behaviors and psychological strengths.
By understanding the interaction of risks and strengths, we can implement positive and protective forces that shape adult life outcome. It’s not easy to address the biopsychosocial experiences that influence problems in children, but if we can identify them now, intervention has a better chance of leading to positive adult adjustment.