The Context of Youth Violence: Resilience, Risk, and Protection

The Context of Youth Violence: Resilience, Risk, and Protection

The Context of Youth Violence: Resilience, Risk, and Protection

The Context of Youth Violence: Resilience, Risk, and Protection


Leading scholars summarize the current research on risk, protection, and resilience in the context of youth violence and its implications for practice with children and families. It describes an emerging framework for understanding social and health problems and for developing more effective programs for interventions. This book describes resilient children by examining risk factors for violence and explores the factors that lead some children to resist or adapt to risk.


Jack M. Richman

Mark W. Fraser

In both the scientific and popular literatures, the related concepts of risk, protection, and resilience have emerged as useful constructs for conceptualizing the development of social and health problems, particularly the problems confronting children and their families (see, e.g., Fraser, 1997). When researchers and practitioners use these terms, they invoke a promising, new way to understand mental health disorders and social problems ranging from poor school achievement to youth violence. A “risk and resilience” orientation—as it is sometimes called—is based on the idea that adaptational behavior emerges from the interplay of (a) combinations of factors predictive of negative developmental outcomes (risk factors) and (b) combinations of counteracting factors that reduce or ameliorate risk. Usually referred to as protective factors (and sometimes referred to as assets or strengths), these counterbalancing factors provide a degree of protection in the presence of risk. Moreover, they lead—in some children—to successful coping and adaptation despite exposure to high levels of adversity. Successfully prevailing over adversity is called resilience (Masten, Best, & Garmezy, 1990; Rutter, 1987).

History is replete with stories of heroes and heroines who “beat the odds” and make extraordinary contributions to society. The theme of outwitting an apparently invincible foe or prevailing over utterly dire situations is often used to describe children—for example, Cinderella and the Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy—who, with exceptional skill, humor, and perseverance, overcome hostile families, living arrangements, or other das-

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