Curriculum for Addiction Professionals > Competency 4: Prevention > 5a. Risk and Protective Factors
Competency 4: Prevention
Addiction Disorders in Women
Risk and Protective Factors
Preventive interventions are designed to minimize risk factors and maximize protective
factors. Risk factors increase the chances of engaging in harmful behaviors. Protective
factors decrease the chances of engaging in harmful behaviors. Risk and protective
factors exist in a variety of domains in a person’s life:
- Individual. Biologic and psychological dispositions, attitudes,
values, knowledge, skills, problem behaviors
- Peers. Norms, activities, bonding
- Family. Function, management, bonding
- School and work. Bonding, climate, policy, performance
- Community. Bonding, norms, resources, awareness/mobilization
- Society. Norms, policy/sanctions, environment
The following table provides examples of risk and protective factors in the various
domains related to alcohol use during pregnancy.
Risk and Protective Factors in Various Domains
Low self-esteem, unemployment, tobacco use, frequent binge drinking
care, meaningful employment, education
Friends who drink while pregnant
Supportive peers who share messages about the harm of drinking while pregnant
drinking by parents and siblings
Supportive partners and relatives who share messages about the harm of drinking
Drinking behavior of coworkers
Alcohol-free social gatherings
Tolerance toward heavy drinking
Education of health care and social service providers and law enforcement officers
Norms against drinking while pregnant
Sources: Stratton, K.; Howe, C.; and Battaglia, F., eds. 1996.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Prevention, and Treatment.
Washington, DC: National Academy Press; Wilsnack, S.C., and Beckman, L.J. 1984.
Alcohol Problems in Women: Antecedents, Consequences, and Intervention.
New York: Guilford Press; Wilsnack, S.C.; Klassen, A.D.; Schur, B.E.; et al. 1991.
Predicting onset and chronicity of women’s problem drinking: A five-year longitudinal
analysis. American Journal of Public Health 81:305-318.
Most women reduce or stop drinking during pregnancy. This reduction may be linked
in part to prevention messages in reading material and radio and television advertisements.
media campaigns have helped raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol use
during pregnancy. For example, the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
posters, rack cards, and booklets available encouraging abstinence during
Universal approaches can help raise awareness about an issue but rarely bring about
behavior change. Warning labels on alcoholic beverages appear to have a preventive
effect on lighter drinkers. But they have little effect on the heaviest drinkers,
who are most at risk of bearing a child with an FASD. Therefore, other approaches
are needed with the heaviest and most long-term drinkers.3