Risk Factors

School Risk Factors

Academic Failure

Beginning in the late elementary grades (grades 4 ‐ 6) academic failure increases the risk of both drug abuse and delinquency. It appears that the experience of failure itself, for whatever reasons, increases the risk of problem behaviors. 

  • Putting them all together, what were your grades like last year? 
  • Are your school grades better than the grades of most students in your class? 

Lack of Commitment to School

Surveys of high school seniors have shown that the use of hallucinogens, cocaine, heroin, stimulants, and sedatives or non‐medically prescribed tranquilizers is significantly lower among students who expect to attend college than among those who do not. Factors such as liking school, spending time on homework, and perceiving the coursework as relevant are also negatively related to drug use.

Peer/Individual Risk Factors

Friends Who Engage in the Problem Behavior

Young people who associate with peers who engage in alcohol or substance abuse are much more likely to engage in the same behavior. Peer drug use has consistently been found to be among the strongest predictors of substance use among youth. Regardless of other risk and protective levels in the family domain, spending time with friends who use drugs greatly increases the risk of that problem developing.  

Friends Who Engage in Substance Use (Peer Drug Use) 

Interactions with Antisocial Peers 

Favorable Attitudes Toward the Problem Behavior

Young people who accept or condone a behavior are more likely to engage in a variety of problem behaviors, including substance use.

Attitudes Favorable Toward Substance Use  

Rewards for Antisocial Behavior (Antisocial Involvement) 

Attitudes Favorable Toward Antisocial Behavior

Early Initiation of Problem Behavior

Early onset of drug use predicts misuse of drugs. The earlier the onset of any drug use, the greater the involvement in other drug use and the greater frequency of use. Onset of drug use prior to the age of 15 is a consistent predictor of drug abuse, and a later age of onset of drug use has been shown to predict lower drug involvement and greater probability of discontinuation of use.  

Early Initiation of Drug Use 

Perceived Risks of Drug Use

Young people who do not perceive drug use to be risky are far more likely to engage in drug use.  

Community Risk Factors

Perceived Availability of Drugs and Alcohol

The availability of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and other illegal drugs has been related to use of these substances by adolescents.

Laws and Norms Favorable to Drug Use

Research has shown that legal restrictions on alcohol and tobacco use, such as raising the legal drinking age, restricting smoking in public places, and increased taxation have been followed by decreases in consumption. Moreover, national surveys of high school seniors have shown that shifts in normative attitudes toward drug use have preceded changes in prevalence of use.  

Low Neighborhood Attachment and Community Disorganization

Low levels of bonding to the neighborhood are related to higher levels of juvenile crime and drug selling. Neighborhoods with high population density, physical deterioration, and high rates of adult crime also have higher rates of juvenile crime and drug use.  

Low Neighborhood Attachment  

Community Disorganization

Family Risk Factors

Family History of Antisocial Behavior

When children are raised in a family with a history of problem behaviors (e.g., violence or substance use), the children are more likely to engage in these behaviors. Children raised in families high in conflict, whether or not the children are directly involved in the conflict, appear at risk for both delinquency and drug use.

Family Management Problems

When adult caregivers fail to provide clear expectations and monitor their children’s behavior, it is more likely that the children will engage in drug abuse.  Similarly, when adult caregivers use inconsistent and/or unusually harsh or severe punishment, the children are also more likely to engage in substance abuse.  These family management practices impact behaviors, whether or not substance abuse problems exist in the family.  

Poor Family Management 

Family Conflict

Young people who feel they are a valued part of their family are less likely to engage in substance use and other problem behaviors.

Favorable Parental (or Adults Youth Live with) Attitudes and Involvement in Problem Behaviors

If the parents/adults youth live with use illegal drugs, are heavy users of alcohol, or are tolerant of children’s use, children are more likely to become drug abusers during adolescence. The risk is further increased if those adults involve children in their own drug (or alcohol) using behavior, for example, asking the child to light the adult’s cigarette or get them a beer from the refrigerator.  

Favorable Parental/Adults Youth Live with Attitudes Toward Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use

Favorable Parental / Adults Youth Live with Attitudes Toward Antisocial Behavior

More Info

If you have questions about the survey, contact the KCTC Team at Greenbush at [email protected], or call 620-724-6281 ext. 366.