Because risk and protective factors help to explain and predict the likelihood of violence, they can be incredibly useful tools for developing violence prevention strategies. When developing a prevention strategy to address the risk or protective factors relevant to your community, there are some important things to keep in mind:
- Not all risk and protective factors are created alike. Some risk and protective factors have a much stronger influence on violence than others. For example, CDC identifies “being a victim of physical or psychological abuse” as one of the strongest, consistent predictors of intimate partner violence. Understanding which factors are more influential is essential to prioritizing which factors you should address. The strength of association between a risk or protective factor and a given outcome can be obtained by looking to resesarch published on the topic - meta-analyses and systematic reviews, two types of studies, provide the most complete picture on these relationships.
- Not all risk and protective factors are changeable. It’s not possible, for example, to change an individual’s history of experiencing violence, an important risk factor for perpetration. However, you should not overlook risk and protective factors that can’t be changed; they can be used to identify individuals or communities that may benefit from enhanced interventions.
- Risk and protective factors are additive. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their risk for perpetrating or being a victim of violence. The more protective factors a person has, the less their risk for perpetrating or becoming a victim of violence.
- Some risk and protective factors are associated with multiple forms of violence and other health outcomes.
This is the thrust of the Prevent Violence NC project. Focusing on these shared risk and protective factors is likely to:
- have an impact on many outcomes
- increase opportunities for new partnerships and audiences
- allow advocates to leverage scarce prevention resources
- acknowledge the complex reality in which violence takes place
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined the advantages and importance of using shared risk and protective factors in violence prevention in their brief, Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links Between Multiple Forms of Violence. Given the countless influences on violence, the tendency for multiple forms of violence to co-occur within individuals, families, and communities, and the limited resources available to address violence, focusing on shared risk and protective factors can be a highly effective and engaging way to structure a comprehensive violence prevention strategy.