Prevention Science, Vol. 6, No. 2, June 2005 (
Individual, Family, School, and Community Risk
and Protective Factors for Depressive Symptoms
in Adolescents: A Comparison of Risk Proﬁles
for Substance Use and Depressive Symptoms
John W. Toumbourou,
Richard F. Catalano,
and George Patton
This study examines the relationship between adolescent depressive symptoms and risk and
protective factors identiﬁed for substance use. A questionnaire, developed to measure these
factors in a young person’s community, family, school, peer group, and individual characteris-
tics for substance use, was used to assess associations with self-reported depressive symptoms.
Data were provided by a representative sample of 8984 secondary school students in Victoria,
Australia. The prevalence of depressive symptoms was 10.5% (95% CI 9.2,12.0) for males and
21.7% (95% CI 20.3,23.7) for females. Depressive symptoms were associated with factors in
all domains, with the strongest associations in the family domain. Strong relationships were
found between the number of elevated risk and protective factors and depressive symptoms,
maintained after adjusting for substance use. Patterns of associations were similar for users
and nonsubstance users. The ﬁndings indicate that prevention programs targeting factors for
substance use have the potential to impact on depression.
KEY WORDS: risk factors; protective factors; depressive symptoms; adolescents; substance use.
With the growth in the understanding of the so-
cial and developmental factors linked to common
adolescent health risk and behavioral problems, it
becomes possible to adopt a risk and protective fac-
tor framework for considering preventive interven-
tions. Efforts to tackle adolescent health problems
and risk behaviors have been advanced in recent
Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital,
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Department of
Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Australia.
Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit, Murdoch Chil-
dren’s Research Institute and Department of Paediatrics, Univer-
sity of Melbourne, Australia.
Social Development Research Group, University of Washington,
Correspondence should be directed to Lyndal Bond, Centre for
Adolescent Health, 2 Gatehouse Street, Parkville 3052, Victoria,
Australia; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
years by the adoption of the risk and protective ap-
proach to prevention (Hawkins et al., 1992; Institute
of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Prevention of
Mental Disorders, 1994). The approach has been
used to identify risk factors and protective factors
for a range of adolescent health and behavior prob-
lems across all domains important to a young per-
son’s development. Thus, risk and protective factors
have been identiﬁed in terms of the broader commu-
nity, in school, in the family, peer group, and individ-
ual characteristics. Although much research has ap-
plied such frameworks to substance use, delinquent
behavior, and mental health problems, individually,
little research has been undertaken which assesses
the utility of a set of risk and protective factors, de-
veloped speciﬁcally to study substance use, for pre-
dicting depressive symptoms or mental health.
Longitudinal studies have identiﬁed risk fac-
tors for adolescent substance abuse and antisocial
behavior in terms of community, family and peer
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.