There is no single risk factor that can be attributed to a young person’s alcohol use or alcohol-related problems, but a psychosocial risk factor and protective factor framework can be used to understand an individual’s likelihood of progressing to problems with alcohol. Alcohol problems correlate with psychosocial risk, which is a function of the balance between risk factors and protective factors. The framework takes into
YOUNG PEOPLE AND ALCOHOL: A RESOURCE BOOK7account not only the characteristics of the individual but also the factors in that individual’s environment that contribute to the trajectory he or she may follow. Resilience is often referenced in this framework, denoting the ability to be well-adjusted and interpersonally effective despite experiencing adversity (21). Factors that counter risk factors and help people deal positively with life changes are referred to as protective factors, which may be events, circumstances or life experiences. Connections to family, school, interest groups or spirituality have been identified as important protective factors. Risk and protective factors may vary over time and have differing impacts at differing points or stages of development (22). The framework is relevant to interventions at both an individual and a community level and to policy formation, as approaches to managing alcohol use in young people aim to reduce risk factors and strengthen protective factors where possible. Figures 1 and 2 demonstrate typical causal pathways in an effort to show how multiple factors at key points in life interconnect. It can be seen in this model how events can cumulatively lead towards reduced capacity to respond to adverse social outcomes (Figure 1). Alternatively, protective factors can work towards resilience and positive outcomes (Figure 2).
8Figure 1: Understanding the casual pathways3Source: Reproduced by permission of the copyright holder of this figure from Department of Indigenous Affairs, Government of Western Australia (22).3 This figure was originally produced by the Telethon Kids Institute.Crime and violenceHarmful drug & alcohol useSelf-regulation of emotion, attention & social interactionEarly neurological (brain) developmentinteractionSuicidal behaviourDepressionAcute stress / significant lossAbsence of employment & meaningful roleAvailability of harmful drugsAffiliation with deviant peersLow self-esteemSchool & learning difficultiesNon-supportive school environment (exposure to bullying/racism)Adverse parenting & exposure to violenceGenetic factorsLow SES, maternal infections, drug use & exposure to neurotoxinsDiet & nutritionPeer problemsNegative thinking patternsPoor problem solving skillsIncreasing psychosocial difficultiesTime
YOUNG PEOPLE AND ALCOHOL: A RESOURCE BOOK9Figure 2: Pathways to Resilience4Source:Reproduced by permission of the copyright holder of this figure from Department of Indigenous Affairs, Government of Western Australia (22).
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