Academic journal article Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling

Resiliency, Risk, and Substance Use among Hispanic Urban Juvenile Detainees

Academic journal article Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling

Resiliency, Risk, and Substance Use among Hispanic Urban Juvenile Detainees

Article excerpt

A study of resiliency was conducted among 236 urban juvenile detainees. Findings reveal that resiliency processes related differently to risk and protective factors, differed among ethnic groups, and varied by age and gender among juvenile detainees.


Research on risk-taking behaviors has traditionally examined factors that place youth at risk (Brown, Cohen, Johnson, & Salzinger, 1998; Pfeffer, 1988; Pierre, Shrier, Emans, & DuRant, 1998), but more recently researchers have begun to explore the strengths and protective factors (Blocker & Copeland, 1994; Pellegrini, 1990; Smith & Prior, 1995) that help youths circumvent problematic behaviors. This new area of research on resiliency uses a variety of terms and phrases to describe resiliency, such as "stress-resistant" (Werner & Smith, 1992)--the ability to bounce back, to withstand hardship, to repair oneself (Wolin & Wolin, 1993)--and "hardiness" (Maddi, 1999). Masten, Best, and Garmezy (1990) defined resilience as "the process of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenging or threatening circumstances" (p. 426). The experience of incarceration at an early age is clearly one of those threatening circumstances. In this study, we examine resiliency processes among a group of adolescent detainees. To more fully understand the antecedents and concomitant experiences of such adolescents, we examined the relationships between resiliency, risk factors, and protective factors and tested several hypotheses about resiliency using the framework presented by Wolin and Wolin.

The Role of Risk and Protective Factors in the Development of Resiliency

Risk factors are "those characteristics, variables, or hazards that, if present for a given individual, make it more likely that this individual, rather than someone selected at random from the general population, will develop a disorder" (Institute of Medicine, 1994, p. 127). In addition to biological risk factors, other risk factors are often reflected in familial, social, or behavioral problems, many of which may be co-occurring among individuals. For example, a youth may be biologically at risk for developing alcoholism because he or she has parents who are biologically disposed to develop alcoholism. Compounding this biological risk may be family risk factors (e.g., the parents may divorce or experience financial difficulties) or situational behaviors (e.g., associating with a delinquent peer group), both of which can exacerbate the risk that the youth might engage in substance use.

The opposite of risk factors are protective factors. Protective factors are specific circumstances, experiences, or resources that ameliorate or buffer a "person's reaction to a situation that in ordinary circumstances leads to maladaptive outcomes" (Werner & Smith, 1992, p. 5). Although the term protective factor is used here, to be consistent with the majority of the psychological literature, it is the process, or experience, of particular circumstances, events, resources, or relationships that determines the extent of its protective impact for the child (Rutter, 1990). Maintaining this similarity in terminology is useful for acknowledging the presence of influential factors and external forces that interact with one another in a child's life.

Risk factors and protective factors interact to affect individuals' vulnerability to the development of illness and their receptivity to protective processes. Yet, risk factors and protective factors alone do not determine individuals' social or developmental outcomes. Resilience, as an internal, dispositional, and attitudinal construct, helps determine how risk factors and protective factors are understood, experienced, and dealt with by the individual. "Theoretical explanations for the phenomenon of resilience involve the interaction of risk factors, including individual vulnerability, and protective factors to explain why some are spared and others are not" (Institute of Medicine, 1994, p. …

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