Critiques of the Article: Measuring Risk and Protective Factors for Substance Use

Critiques of the Article: Measuring Risk and Protective Factors for Substance Use


The article describes a study that was aimed at developing a survey to measure the risk factors and protective factors of drug and substance use in adolescents aged 11 to 18 years. The rate of drug and substance use, delinquency and other problem behaviors has continued to escalate within American youths (Arthur et al, 2002). The available and emerging prevention paradigm suggests that if the protective factors and risk factors can be identified, drug and substance use can be prevented among the adolescents. Arthur et al, (2002) define risk factors as personal traits or variables that, if present for a given individual, there is a likelihood of that person to develop the disorder. On the other hand, protective factors are those factors that reduce the likelihood of a problem behavior directly or by reducing the impact of exposure to risk behaviors. Various studies have identified risk and protective factors of drug use, crime, violence and other substance abuse in young youths. The evaluation program has indicated that the exposure of the adolescent to many risk factors and a variety of problem behaviors has increased. Studies also suggest the current risk factors pose a great danger to the behavior of youths than predicted (Arthur et al, 2002). Therefore, a broad measurement of risk factors and protective factors should be conducted to design protective programs that will reduce drug and substance use in schools and limit problematic behaviors such as violence and school dropout (Arthur et al, 2002).

Reason why the Evaluation was Conducted

As noted the earlier of drug abuse delinquency and problematic behaviors has increased among the adolescents aged between 11 to 19 years. This has triggered many studies to find the reasons behind the increased rate of substance use by American youths. However, there is a research gap that exists between the identified risk factors and the associated impact to individual behavior that result in drug abuse. Others argue that the current predictor of the risk factors has not fully identified these risk factors and protective factors that are accelerating substance use among the youths. To fill the research gap and prevent adolescent problem behavior by reducing risk factors and enhancing protective process, federal state and community planners have commissioned a research to measure and identify risk and protective factors that can reduce adolescent substance use. The research was supported by Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) in collaboration with six state alcohol and drug abuse prevention agencies (Arthur et al,2002)

Goals or desired outcomes of the policy or program

The main goal of the evaluation program was to develop an assessment program that could provide data on identified risk factors and protective factors for substance abuse among the adolescents. The program aimed at broadening the survey instruments in measuring the risk and protective factors to design and enhance a framework to guide prevention of substance abuse at national and local levels. The program aimed at increasing the measurement of these risks and protective factors by carrying out longitudinal research across community, schools family, peer and individual. The research was also supposed to measure health and behavior outcome of the adolescent which include substance use, delinquency and violence (Arthur et al, 2002).

What theory connects the policy or program to the goals or outcomes?

In order to ensure that the policy program connects to the goals and the desired outcome, the risk and protective factors to be measured were factors that had been identified by previous studies to increase substance use and delinquent behaviors at the individual level. That is, the research was based on available information from previously conducted studies by different researchers (Arthur et al, 2002).

What rival or plausible explanations or theories were ruled out?

On conducting the research, there were various assumptions that the researcher ruled out. One of the plausible explanations was that the information gathered was true. The data collecting instrument were reliable and valid. Both internal and external validity had been tested.

 How did the theory guide the author(s) in their conduct of the evaluation?

The identified theories were helpful to the researcher when conducting the survey in several ways. Initially, they help guided the researcher in forming the basis of the study. These theories depicted that the substance use among adolescents is increasing. They also indicated a number of risk and protective factors associated with substance use among the youths. Thus, the researcher only needed to broaden his survey to assess the level of influence of these risks and protective factors both at national and local level. The available theories also guided the researcher in selecting the study method and study instruments to use. Based on the previously conducted studies, the researcher was able to assess the success of each study method and instrument used as well as their limitations. This helped in selecting the most appropriate method and instruments

How did the author(s) propose to evaluate the policy or program in terms of its goals or outcomes?

According to the author, various methods were to be used in evaluating the program in terms of desired outcome.Among the proposed methods was to assess whether these factors depicted by the study corresponds with the one that had previously been identified. The policy will also be evaluated by looking the correspondence of the information collected from different geographical areas. For the policy to be considered effective, the risk and protective factors identified should correspond with the existing data (Arthur et al, 2002).

What principal research methods did the author(s) use in the conduct of the evaluation?

The researcher mainly used quantitative research method in evaluating the risk and protective factors in adolescent substance abuse. This method was considered appropriate since the researcher wanted to test and verify the existing theories on substance use among adolescents (Rubin, & Babbie, 2013). Quantitative study involves the collection of statistical data from primary sources (Rubin& Babbie, 2013). The statistical data is then used to test the hypothesis and in the development of a new hypothesis in future studies. An experimental survey was used to collected data. The survey instrument includes questionnaire and interview that were used concurrently in collecting the data. Random sampling was conducted to select schools that were to participate in the study and also the respondents who were the students in 6th, 8th and 11th grade.

What did the author(s) conclude? On what basis

From the findings of the evaluation, Arthur et al, (2002), concluded that the survey instrument designed to measure risk and protective factors that influence drug and substance abuse and problematic behaviors among the adolescents in multiple ecological domains was effective. The risk and protective factors were coherent with the problem behaviors of the youths as expected. This showed that the survey instrument showed construct validity. Arthur et al, (2002) also concluded that the risk factors increase with age during youth development. As adolescents develop they become prone to drug availability, cultural norms and laws that encouraging drug use, peer influence to drug use, and favorable attitude to drug use.

Did any unintended or unanticipated consequences arise?

During the study, there were some unintended consequences that emerged. First not all the selected participant participated in the study. The population of Oregon student where the data were collected was not sufficient to represent the whole population and, therefore, the findings could not represent the entire population. The magnitude of the correlation between the risk and protective factors and specific behavior also varies. This was due to quality of measurement and differences in the proximity of different entomology factors in specific behaviors. Some scales also had no substantial variations across schools.

Did the program achieve its intended goals or outcomes in whole, in part, or not at all?

From the analysis, the program achieved it intended goal of broadening the survey of risk and protective factors of substance use among the youths. The program was able to show the relationship between the existing theories on adolescent substance abuse with the predicted risk factors. The result indicates that measure the identified risk and protective factors depicted in other studies to predict adolescent antisocial behavior, including delinquency, substance abuse, and violence. The survey instrument also has significant application in forming a framework for strategic prevention planning of substance abuse. However, the program did not fully achieve all it goals. The program aimed at closing the gap that exist between what is known and what is not known on adolescent substance abuse, but it failed to show the magnitude of the correlation between risk and protective factors and specific antisocial behaviors. This call for other studies in future to ensure the effectiveness of prevention programs aimed at minimize drug abuse in schools by adolescent (Traube, James, Zhang, & Landsverk, 2012).

To what uses were the results of the evaluation to be put?

The results of the evaluation program were to be used in forming a strategic prevention program aimed at reducing the use of drugs by adolescents in schools. The results will also be used to help other researcher interested in the field of drug and substance abuse when conducting their study

From the results of the evaluation, what principal recommendations did the author(s) make?

The author recommended that the reliability and validity of the survey instrument across the racial and ethnic groups should be improved. The preventive factors should be implemented fully to reduce drug abuse in adolescents.

Critiques of the Evaluation Program

The program that aimed at developing a survey instrument to identify risk and protective factors of substance use by adolescents was not properly implemented. First, in designing the goals of the program, the study would have aimed at identifying factors that influence drug and substance use in teens and then evaluate way to reduce drug use rather than developing a survey instrument. The program should have used both qualitative and quantitative research methods together. The qualitative research methods would have helped the researcher in formulating the hypothesis through use of secondary data while quantitative research method could have been used to test the hypothesis using statistical data collected from the field.


Arthur, M. W., Hawkins, J. D., Pollard, J. A., Catalano, R. F., & Baglioni, A. J. (2002).

Measuring risk and protective factors for use, delinquency, and other adolescent problem behaviors the communities that care youth survey. Evaluation Review, 26(6), 575-601.

Rubin, A., & Babbie, E. (2013). Brooks/Cole Empowerment Series: Research Methods for Social

Work. Cengage Learning.

Traube, D. E., James, S., Zhang, J., & Landsverk, J. (2012). A national study of risk and

protective factors for substance use among youth in the child welfare system. Addictive behaviors, 37(5), 641-650.