Problem Behavior Theory and the Dynamics of Protection and Risk
The relation of psychosocial protective factors to involvement in problem behavior—alcohol and drug use, delinquency, and sexual precocity—was investigated in a longitudinal study of 7th-, 8th-, and 9th-grade adolescents in a large, urban school district. Protective factors were drawn from the personality, the perceived environment, and the behavior systems of Problem Behavior Theory. The findings show a significant inverse relation between protection and problem behavior involvement. There is a significant interaction between protection and risk in the prediction of problem behavior: Protection is shown to moderate the relation of risk to problem behavior. Protective factors are also significant predictors of change in adolescent problem behavior over time. Direct effects of protection are consistent across all gender and racial/ethnic subgroups; moderator effects are evident for female, White, and Hispanic subgroups only.
KeywordsProblem Behavior Theory Protective factors Risk factors Moderator effects Adolescent development
This study is a report from the research project supported by Grant 91-1194-88 from the William T. Grant Foundation, R. Jessor, principal investigator. Support from the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Adolescent Development Among Youth in High-Risk Settings is gratefully acknowledged. We are grateful to the officials of the school district involved for their gracious and extended cooperation. The contributions of John Donovan to this report are appreciated. The article has benefited particularly from the comments and suggestions of Gary H. McClelland and Arnold J. Sameroff.
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