Predicting the Problem Behavior in Adolescents

Neslihan G. KARAMAN
Assistant Professor, Başkent Üniversitesi, Eğitim Fakültesi, Rehberlik ve Psikolojik Danışmanlık Bölümü, Turkey.


Problem statement: Problem behavior theory describes both protective factors and risk factors to explain adolescent problem behaviors, such as delinquency, alcohol use, and reckless driving. The theory holds that problem behaviors involving risky behavior are used by adolescents as a means to gain peer acceptance and respect. Problem behaviors constitute a significant part of gaining independence from the family, coping with stress, and eliminating or reducing negativity and pressure.

Purpose of study: This study was designed to examine the risk factors related to personality systems, the risk factors related to perceived environment, and the effects of risk-taking variables on problem behavior in a structural model.

Methods: This study constitutes causal comparative research in which the effects of personal system risk factors, perceived environment risk factors, and risk-taking variables on problem behavior are analyzed and performed using correlation research. Data have been collected during research sessions with different age groups, and cross-sectional research methods have been used. The dependent variable of the research is problem behavior, while the independent variables are personality characteristics and environment. The mediating variable is risk-taking. The study sample consists of adolescents aged 15 to 18 in Turkey. With purposive sampling, 2834 adolescents with different socioeconomic and cultural characteristics from three Turkish cities (i.e., Ankara, Sivas, and Muğla) were selected. Both a personal data form and the Adolescent Health and Development Questionnaire (AHDQ) were used. For data analysis, participants’ demographic characteristics and average scores according to scale frequency and percentage distribution were used. In order to test the developed model, a path analysis with latent variables method, which puts forth both mediation and direct effects, was implemented.

Conclusion and recommendations: Findings demonstrated that risk factors mentioned in problem behavior theory increase problem behavior with risk-taking. As a tendency to take risks increases, the probability of exhibiting problem behavior increases. When observing the risk factors in personality systems and perceived environment systems, the particular risk factors of stress, depression, self-esteem, and alienation in the personality system lead to an individual’s risk-taking, hence his or her demonstrating increased problem behavior. Risk factors in perceived environment, such as living environment, relationships with parents, and attitudes of friends, have determinative effects on adolescents’ risk-taking and increase the probability of their exhibiting problem behavior. Finally, a positive correlation has been determined between a risk-taking tendency and problem behavior.

Keywords: Problem behavior, risk taking, adolescents, substance use.