Risk & Protective Factors

A mental health risk factor is an internal (e.g. temperament) or external (e.g. environment) condition that increases the likelihood of the development of a mental health problem.

Alternatively, a mental health protective factor is an internal or external condition that mitigates against the development of mental health problems and helps to promote resiliency.

While no single risk factor can predict the development of mental illness nor any single protective factor assure immunity, the following chart identifies risk and protective factors that are known to correlate with mental health functioning in children and youth.

Click here for an easy to print PDF version of the Mental Health Risk and Protective Factors information below.

MENTAL HEALTH RISK
FACTORS
MENTAL HEALTH PROTECTIVE FACTORS
Individual Factors Individual Factors
 Prenatal brain damage Easy temperament
 Prematurity Adequate nutrition
 Birth injury Above average intelligence
 Low intelligence Problem solving skills
 Chronic illness Internal locus of control
 Poor health in infancy Social competence
 Insecure attachment in infancy or childhood Social skills
 Low birth weight, birth complications Good coping style
 Difficult temperament Optimism
 Physical and/or intellectual disability Moral beliefs
 Poor social skills Values
 Low self-esteem Positive self regard
 Impulsivity Good physical health
 Family Factors Family Factors
 Having a teenage mother Attachment to family
 Absence of either parent in childhood Supportive, caring parents
 Large family size Family harmony
 Anti-social role models Secure and stable family
 Neglect Small family size
 Marital discord in parents, divorce More than two years between siblings
 Harsh or inconsistent discipline style High level of family responsibility
 Family violence and disharmony Strong family norms and morality
 Low parental involvement in kids’ activities Economic security
 Long term parental unemployment
 Parental criminality School Factors
 Parental substance abuse School achievement
 Parental mental health disorder Sense of belonging at school
 Poor supervision and monitoring Positive school climate
 Family social isolation Pro-social peer group
 Lack of warmth and affection High expectations
 Death of a family member Required responsibility and service to others
Opportunities for success
 School Factors Opportunities for recognition of achievement
 Poor attachment to school School norms against violence
 Bullying Child receives support from adults other than parents
 Peer rejection School provides clear rules and boundaries
 Inadequate behavior management
 Deviant peer group  Community and Cultural Factors
 School failure  Sense of connectedness to community
 Frequent school transitions  Attachment to community networks
Participation in church or other community group
 Community and Cultural Factors Strong cultural identity and ethnic pride
 Socio-economic disadvantage Access to support services
 Social or cultural discrimination Community cultural norms against violence
 Neighborhood violence and crime Caring neighborhood
 Overcrowded housing conditions Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring child
 Lack of recreational opportunities
 Lack of support services

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