Beyond Risk Factors: Towards a Holistic Prevention Paradigm for Children and Young People
Since the mid 1990s early intervention and prevention has become a central feature of public policy across the western world. This development has had a major impact on re-constructing the prevention paradigm in children and youth services. It has been underpinned by the emergence of the science of risk factor analysis (RFA). This paradigm has had mixed success in prevention work but has gained significant political credence and support. While RFA has reshaped prevention approaches it does have methodological and practice limitations. This paper argues for a more holistic approach to prevention policy and social work practice, one that recognises risk but does not allow it to dominate. We explore the growing body of evidence for RFA, outlining both its strengths and weaknesses and show how a more holistic approach can be adopted. We argue that the fundamental focus for analysis and intervention needs to recognise the social and cultural context of developmental pathways, and emphasises needs to be on relations between levels of organisation in a child's or young person's developmental process . We draw on the Australian Pathways to Prevention Programme to illustrate how social work can and should be developed to create more holistic approaches to prevention.
The British Journal of Social Work