A Test of Jessor's Problem Behavior Theory in a Eurasian and a Western European Developmental Context

Alexander T. Vazsonyi, Pan Chen, Maureen Young, Dusty Jenkins, Sara Browder, Emily Kahumoku, Karaman Pagava, Helen Phagava, Andre Jeannin, Pierre Andre Michaud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Purpose: The current study tested the applicability of Jessor's problem behavior theory (PBT) in national probability samples from Georgia and Switzerland. Comparisons focused on (1) the applicability of the problem behavior syndrome (PBS) in both developmental contexts, and (2) on the applicability of employing a set of theory-driven risk and protective factors in the prediction of problem behaviors. Methods: School-based questionnaire data were collected from n = 18,239 adolescents in Georgia (n = 9499) and Switzerland (n = 8740) following the same protocol. Participants rated five measures of problem behaviors (alcohol and drug use, problems because of alcohol and drug use, and deviance), three risk factors (future uncertainty, depression, and stress), and three protective factors (family, peer, and school attachment). Final study samples included n = 9043 Georgian youth (mean age = 15.57; 58.8% females) and n = 8348 Swiss youth (mean age = 17.95; 48.5% females). Data analyses were completed using structural equation modeling, path analyses, and post hoc z-tests for comparisons of regression coefficients. Results: Findings indicated that the PBS replicated in both samples, and that theory-driven risk and protective factors accounted for 13% and 10% in Georgian and Swiss samples, respectively in the PBS, net the effects by demographic variables. Follow-up z-tests provided evidence of some differences in the magnitude, but not direction, in five of six individual paths by country. Conclusion: PBT and the PBS find empirical support in these Eurasian and Western European samples; thus, Jessor's theory holds value and promise in understanding the etiology of adolescent problem behaviors outside of the United States.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-564
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Swiss data collection was supported by grants from the Swiss Office for Public Health (contracts 316.5139 and 316.92.5321) and by cantonal/regional offices across Switzerland. Georgian data collection was supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SCOPES 7 GEPj065646).

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adolescence/adolescent
  • Crosscultural
  • Crossnational
  • Georgian adolescents
  • Problem behavior theory
  • Swiss adolescents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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