Ensuring the Well-being of Boys and Young Men of Color: Factors that Promote Success and Protect Against Substance Use and Misuse

This practice-support tool distills information from the research literature on (1) factors that have been shown to either protect boys and young men of color from substance misuse or to mitigate risks associated with adverse experiences or situations, and (2) factors that have been shown to promote well-being and positive youth development for boys and young men of color in the U.S.

Research suggests that boys and young men of color are at increased risk for poor educational, economic and health outcomes. Such disparities have been linked to social determinants such as historical trauma, cultural subjugation and geographic marginalization or segregation, gender norms and gender role stress as well as risk
behaviors that may occur secondary to these social determinants—for example, reduced job prospects and underemployment, access to services, and exposure to violence. What we know less about and seldom dwell on are those factors that promote well-being from the start or protect against substance misuse, specifically.

Far too often, practitioners tend to focus on deficits of or risks faced by youth of color. Although such a focus is important for identifying and alleviating sources of oppression, discrimination and economic inequality, concentrating on adversity has overshadowed the strengths or assets that communities of color summon to raise their children. Therefore, this tool shifts the attention away from the many risks that youth of color face, and instead focuses on the constellation of factors that protect against substance misuse including the unique strengths of this population. An emphasis on strengths and protective factors is in keeping with other popular theories on positive mental health and youth development. For example, these theories propose that: positive mental health focuses more on coping than mental breakdown; subjective well-being asserts greater influence on the environment than the other way around; coping strategies and social supports can modify a person’s reaction to environmental stressors and minimize poor health outcomes; and youth are assets to be developed and should be provided the means and opportunities to build successful futures.

Population of focus: Boys and Young Men of Color

Links to resource:

Date: 2016

Organization: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration