This entry describes the study of cumulative risk and advantage for individuals and families across the lifespan. Central thoughts from theory and research on cumulative risk are elaborated, followed by a section on special considerations involved when thinking about and studying cumulative risk. Last, the more narrowly defined area of cumulative advantage is elaborated.

Theory and Research Findings on Cumulative Risk

Risk is defined as an event or circumstance in the individual’s environment that potentially increases the likelihood of negative or unfavorable developmental outcomes. A cumulative risk perspective embodies two central meanings. The first meaning is that because risk factors often co-occur, it is the accumulation of risk factors within and across environmental domains that shapes individual adjustment and development. Cumulative risk suggests that this accumulation is ...

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