Change in protective factors across adolescent development

Authors: B.K. Elizabeth Kim, Sabrina Oesterle, Richard F. Catalano, and J. David Hawkins

Journal: Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (2015)

Prevention science has established that risk factors for a range of problems increase over the course of adolescence, yet little is known about the trajectory of change for protective factors during adolescence, which may mitigate the increasing risk. In this paper, Kim et al use longitudinal data from the Community Youth Development Study to explore the developmental change in protective factors from 5th through 12th grade in order to refine our understanding of the best timing for preventive interventions over the course of adolescence. Using three-level hierarchical modeling, the authors examined protective factors over time, accounting for variation across individuals and communities. Reflecting the commonly acknowledged 5th grade slump, youth experienced a significant decline across most domains of interpersonal, community, family, peer, and school protective factors from 5th through 8th grade. While the majority of these factors began to rebound modestly with the transition into high school, some protective factors, including feelings of attachment to community and commitment to school, remained in a steady decline throughout middle and high school. The authors also highlight some interesting differences between genders in the trajectories of protective factors. We welcome thoughts, suggestions and discussions about the implications of these findings for programs and policies aiming to improve a wide-range of adolescent health issues.

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