Whether or not an individual becomes involved in acts that are socially, legally or physically detrimental is largely dependant on if, and how much, relevant risk factors are influencing their behaviour. These risk factors are variables in a persons life or milieu that mean they have an increased chance of becoming involved in delinquency as compared to a random member of the public. Naturally, this means that decreasing the effect of risk factors will reduce the prospect of ongoing negative behaviours so intervening at an early stage and dealing with an issue will mean that the given risk will not spiral into a serious problem. Conversely, if no attempt is made to prevent a risk then that negative behaviour can exponentially cause more problems which can then develop into more issues and negative habits. As well as this risk factors tend to either have symbiotic relationships or are linked in terms of their social-economic cause; ergo when one variable changes it is all the more likely that another will be influenced as well. Since this can potentially lead to a snowball effect that is difficult to tackle once it reaches a certain stage it is clear that a preventative approach to risk factors is preferable. For example, a lack of parental supervision is a risk factor and as such can cause problem behaviours in children; therefore it is favourable to deal with the problem of diminished parental supervision rather than the resultant behavioural issues that come of it. By recognising what circumstances are linked with higher rates of illegal or unsociable behaviour we can therefore identify what risk factors are influencing an individual and begin to reduce their impact.
In contrast, protective factors are methods of intervention that allow one to deal with some risk factors and promote constructive behaviours that minimize the possibility they could affect an individual. It is incredibly important to promote protective factors as they are the precautionary tool for dealing with risk factors before they become undesireable behaviours that will be much more difficult to deal with. Another pertinent aspect of this is to ensure that the relevant procedures are put into motion for the specific risk factor that is being dealt with. There are multiple variables that can affect or cause risk factors so it is vital that the protective factor being implemented actually stymies the offending variable. For example if a teenager has recently been trying illegal drugs with their friends who have previous experience with them we have established the risk factor in this instance; thier friends are a bad influence on their behaviour. The protective factor in this case would be to limit contact with this particular group of friends whilst also engaging with the teenager in terms and educating them on the matter, rather than the friends being the sole source of all their information. By recognising what protective factors govern the veracity of a given risk factor we can put personal resources into promoting those assets as a means of implementing preventative measures.
In conclusion, to reduce recidivism in criminal behaviour or to lower the risk of teenage delinquency it is vital to identify the risk factors involved in any of these issues as well as the relevant protective factor that can alleviate the problem. Decreasing the potential risk factors and promoting awareness and action integration of protective factors ensures that an individual or small grooup do not experience higher rates of problems in comparison to the population average. This is a preferrable method to dealing with these issues as the alternative is to attempt to change aspects of an individual that have become fundamental to their behaviour and their being; the primary goal is to make sure ongoing risk factors are kept from happening or continuing to happen.