Protective Factors

CTC organizes protective factors into a system called the Social Development Strategy (SDS)

About the Social Development Strategy

Protective factors buffer against risk by either reducing the impact of risk factors or changing the way youth respond to them. Most people are already using aspects of the Social Development Strategy with youth, but you see a bigger impact by using these techniques consciously and consistently.


The Science Behind SDS

The SDS was proven successful with a study that followed 808 ten-year-olds for more than 15 years. When parents and elementary teachers were provided training in how to use the SDS during the elementary grades, 15 years later their children had better outcomes than those who did not receive the training. Positive outcomes included: a greater percentage of students who graduated high school on time, better economic outcomes, better mental health in their 20s, and fewer teen pregnancies.

Components of SDS

The Social Development Strategy has five components:

opportunities | skills | recognition | bonding | healthy standards

Using the SDS

Anyone can use the Social Development Strategy with youth:

parents | grandparents | other family | teachers | coaches | 

SDS in Action

Opportunities, Skills, Recognition


The first aspect of the SDS is to provide developmentally appropriate opportunities to young people for participation and interaction. Second, teach them meaningful skills to help them succeed. Finally, provide consistent, specific praise and recognition for effort and improvement.

Bonding with the Community


By providing opportunities, skills, and recognition, you promote positive bonding — a sense of attachment, emotional connection, and commitment to the people and groups who provide that recognition. Bonding can occur with a family member, teacher, coach, employer, or neighbor.

Healthy Standards for Behavior


Through the process of bonding, young people become motivated to live according to the standards for behavior of the person or group to whom they are bonded. The key is to ensure that the young person bonds to someone with healthy behaviors, so they will be more likely to model healthy behavior.


Protective Factors