Protective Factors in Schools

Protective Factors are individual or environmental characteristics or conditions that promote the health and emotional well-being of children and adolescents.1 Enhancing protective factors can help students engage in positive health behaviors and avoid many risk behaviors.2,3 They also can buffer students from the potentially harmful effects of negative situations and events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.2-4

Schools are uniquely positioned to strengthen protective factors through CDC’s framework for school health: the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. This framework is student-centered and emphasizes the importance of key protective factors: social and emotional climate, parent engagement, and community involvement in supporting the school.

Students can be emotionally engaged when they like school, are interested in it, and identify with school culture.

Teenage girl talks about emotions during school therapy session

Students can be emotionally engaged when they like school, are interested in, and identify with school culture.

Examples of individual characteristics and conditions:

  • Positive self-worth.
  • High self-efficacy.
  • Social and emotional competence.
  • Positive relationships.
  • Good decision making.
  • Self-control.
  • Planning and goal setting.

Examples of environmental characteristics and conditions:

  • Positive parenting.
  • Parent engagement.
  • Social support.
  • School connectedness.
  • Safe and caring communities.
Protective Factors for School Health

CDC Healthy Schools focuses on the individual and environmental protective factors below that align with the WSCC framework. These factors can positively affect health behaviors and social determinants of health, improve emotional well-being, and be modified through public health and educational approaches.