Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Adolescence

pp 2171-2180


Problem Behavior Syndrome

  • Kristina ChildsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of New Orleans Email author 
  • , Christopher SullivanAffiliated withSchool of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati


Jessor and Jessor’s (1977) concept of problem behavior syndrome (PBS) has received a great deal of empirical attention over the past 3 decades. They suggest that the tendency to simultaneously engage in more than one form of illicit behavior constitutes proneness toward deviance, which is sometimes referred to as PBS. In general, this research has provided support for an underlying disposition toward deviance in adolescence. The goal of this essay is to describe this conceptual framework in some detail, present extant research, and provide some fresh ideas for future research aimed at improving our understanding of adolescent problem behaviors. At the same time, this essay will help to illuminate the practical implications of this concept and attendant research.


Although various problem behaviors among adolescents in the United States have declined over the past decade, the prevalence of risk-taking behavior remains relatively high. For example, in 20 ...

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