Problem Behavior Theory: Initial Formulation for the Tri-Ethnic Community Study

  • Richard JessorEmail author
  • Theodore D. Graves
  • Robert C. Hanson
  • Shirley L. Jessor
Part of the Advancing Responsible Adolescent Development book series (ARAD)


This chapter is a summary of the theoretical approach and the findings of The Tri-Ethnic Community Study initiated in 1960 in a small community in the Rocky Mountain west made up of Native Americans (Indians), long-time Spanish American residents, and Anglos (Whites). The formulation of an interdisciplinary, social-psychological theory to account for variation in alcohol use and other problem behaviors across and within the three ethnic groups is described, as are the findings generated by three converging studies in the community. This theoretical framework is the earliest version of what later became Problem Behavior Theory. Both the Sociocultural System and the Personality System of variables in the theory were significant predictors of alcohol use and other problem behaviors and, together, their explanatory account was even stronger. The limitations of the research are dealt with in detail as are its unique contributions. In the end, the chapter illuminates the meaning of ethnic status as a particular constellation of the social-psychological attributes in the theoretical framework.


Opportunity structure Normative structure Anomie Social control structure Perceived opportunity structure Personal belief structure Personal control structure Sociocultural system Socialization system Personality system 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Jessor
    • 1
    Email author
  • Theodore D. Graves
    • 2
  • Robert C. Hanson
    • 2
  • Shirley L. Jessor
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Behavioral ScienceUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.University of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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