Risky Behaviors and Bullying Toolkit
What do we mean by Risky Behaviors?
Experimenting with new behaviors and activities is a normal part of child and youth development. Testing limits and finding new interests move young people toward independence and self-sufficiency. So when does normal experimenting cross the line into risky behaviors? When a behavior puts the health, physical well-being, or relationships with anyone in jeopardy, the term risky behavior applies.
Current Thoughts About Risky Behaviors
Two frameworks currently dominate the risky behavior literature. Both approaches share the same philosophy - to prevent risky behaviors, caring adults must create positive environments and experiences for youth.
Hawkins & Catalano
|Doctors David Hawkins and Robert Catalano have done extensive research in this area. Based on their research, specific risk and protective factors can be correlated to specific risky behaviors. Risk factors are those circumstances that may increase youths likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors. Conversely, protective factors are any circumstances that promote healthy youth behaviorsand decrease the chance that youth will engage in risky behaviors.||Based on research, a 40 developmental asset framework has been created as a common sense approach to supporting positive youth development. This framework categorizes 40 assets into two groups: 20 external assets and 20 internal assets. External assets are the positive experiences young people receive from the world around them and include roles of families, schools, and neighborhoods. Internal assets identify those characteristics and behaviors that help youth make thoughtful, positive choices such as positive values, social competencies, and commitment to learning.|
A Case for Addressing Risky Behaviors
Regardless of the approach taken, there is strong and consistent evidence that disruptive and anti-social behavior at school, whether reported by teachers or students, is related to academic achievement. In fact, Hawkins & Catalano offer a predictable pattern of behavior for youth with specific risk factors.
Students who have specific risk factors (in the first column) are very likely to become at-risk for the risky behaviors in the remaining columns of the table.
|RISK FACTORS||Risky Behavior: Substance Use||Risky Behavior: Delinquency||Risky Behavior:Teen Pregnancy||Risky Behavior:School Dropout||Risky Behavior: Violence|
|Academic failure begining in late elementary school||X||X||X||X||X|
|Lack of commitment to school||X||X||X||X||X|
|Early and persistent anti-social behavior||X||X||X||X||X|
|Friends who engage in problem behaviors||X||X||X||X|
|Favorable attitudes towards problem behaviors||X||X||X||X||X|
|Early initiation of problem behaviors||X||X||X||X||X|
Protective factors, on the other hand, can be described as the “buffers” for risk factors. The most effective approach for improving young people’s lives is to reduce risk factors while increasing protective factors in all of the areas in their lives. Protective factors related to school include:
- Caring and Support - Nuturing staff and positive role models, peer support, personal attention and interest from teachers, and warm and responsive climates.
- High Expectations - Minimum mastery to basic skills, emphasis on higher order academics, and avoidance of negative labeling and tracking.
- Opportunities for Meaningful Participation - Leadership and decision-making by students, student participation in extra-curricular activities, parent and community participation in instruction, and culturally diverse curricula and experiences.
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