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Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Protective Factors Against Delinquency

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2015
14 pages

Based on a literature review, this paper discusses the features of protective factors in a juvenile's life that prevent delinquent and problem behaviors, describes particular programs designed to develop various protective factors, and reports on evaluations of such programs.


Protective factors are defined as "those characteristics of the child, family, and wider environment that reduce the likelihood of adversity leading to negative child outcomes and behaviors, such as delinquency and later adult offending." Research on protective factors (sometimes called "resilience") indicates that they promote the ability of youth to succeed in a normative socioeconomic context even though they may develop in an environment that contains a high number of risk factors for criminal behavior. Protective factors are classified into five domains: individual (biological and psychological attributes); family (bonding and behavioral management); peer (norms, activities, and attachments with friends); school (bonding with school environment and compliance with performance measures); and community (role modeling of positive norms and expectations for youth). The concept of protective factors is rooted in various delinquency theories, including social learning theory and social control theory. The paper presents tables and describes specific programs that address protective factors in each of the five domains of protective factors. An overview of relevant evaluation research concludes that it has focused on the impact of risk factors on delinquency while comparable research on protective factors is lacking. The paper recommends additional research on the interaction of risk and protective factors and how this information can be applied to reduce delinquent behavior. 5 tables and 53 references

Date Published: December 1, 2015