Risk Factor Identification
Risk factors are characteristics whose presence increases the chances for development of a disease. A true risk factor must exist before a disease develops. For example, being male and having a family history of alcoholism are risk factors for the development of alcoholism (Merikangas, 1990). When a variable cannot be defini-tively proved to predate the onset of a disorder, it is best concep-tualized as a correlate. For example, socioenvironmental factors, such as adverse life events and chronic strain, that are statistically associated with the development of depressive disorders should usually be regarded as correlates because it is usually not possible to disentangle the causal sequence of these relationships.