The Protective Factor Model: Strengths-Oriented Prevention for African-American Families

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Cultural competence for health care professionals working with African-American communities: Theory and practice

Publication Date


Date Added



Social indicators reveal that African-American individuals and families as a whole are not faring as well as others, particularly when compared with Whites. Nevertheless, the endurance and proliferation of African-American families in this society and the relative success of many of them, despite the violence and discrimination to which they have been subjected since colonial times, is testament to their inherent strengths and adaptive capacities. Although Billingsley (1968, 1988) and Hill (1972) have documented the strengths of African-American families, the prevailing paradigm for assessment and intervention with this group is problem focused and deficit oriented. African-American families are generally treated as flawed and dysfunctional units; little regard is paid to their strengths. Moreover, traditional treatment models are limited in that intervention is problem specific. Given the vulnerability of African-American families in this society, it is prudent to focus efforts on empowering them to cope effectively with the challenges they are likely to confront, thereby averting debilitating crises. Thus, a new paradigm is needed that combines concepts of prevention with a perspective of strengths.


Social Work