Risks and Protective Factors: Introduction to the Ecological Model
One model that can be a useful resource in identifying the long and short-term risk factors for violence, is the Ecological Model. This model was originally theorised by developmental psychologist, Uri Bronfenbrenner, to explain human growth and development. It has since been adapted to explain other social phenomena, in this case, the risk for violence victimisation and violence perpetration.
Taking the individual as a starting point, this model identifies a variety of risk factors at different social levels:
- Individual. The person’s personality, biological factors, experiences, beliefs and values and demographic characteristics.
- Relationship. The quality of the person’s relationships with others including family members, intimate partner, friends, colleagues and peers.
- Community. The characteristics of the environment the person occupies, their neighbourhood, school, workplace etc. Factors like unemployment, substance abuse, population density and mobility play a role at this level.
- Society. The characteristics of the broader society in which the person lives. This includes social norms, economic policies, political climate and culture.
At each level of the ecology that surrounds every person, factors can be in place that put people at risk of falling victim to violence and/ or perpetrating violence. These different levels can also interact with each other. For example, a societal value may influence personal values, or a community characteristic may influence a personal relationship. The more risk factors a person is exposed to, the more likely it is that he or she will fall victim to violence and/ or become violent.