STAGE 4. Selecting the theoretical approach

What steps should be completed?

Step 1: Select the theoretical approach or approaches on which the intervention will be based


What are its bases?

Problematic behaviours (understood by this model (approach) as behaviours that are a source of social concern or are considered undesirable by conventional norms, and whose occurrence provokes some kind of social control, as would be the case of drug use, participation in criminal activities, school absenteeism, etc.) are explained by three basic systems: personality, environment and behaviour, and the interaction between the three can generate a dynamic state called "predisposition to problem behaviour". Problematic behaviours in adolescents are functional, and are generally interrelated, so efforts must be consolidated and the intervention must address the set of problematic behaviours as a whole.

In this psychosocial model (approach), the causal network that can explain risk behaviour in adolescents is made up of five domains, each of which includes risk factors and protection factors: sociodemographic characteristics (education, occupation, religion, etc.), socialisation (family climate, influence of peers, etc.), personality (structure of personal beliefs, etc.), environment (parental control, etc.) and behaviour (problematic or conventional).

Which determinants can be addressed?

This theory enables personal determinants (such as self-esteem, tolerance of deviance, tolerance to drug use and other problematic behaviours, and expectations of success in the school system) and environmental determinants (such as family environment, the presence of drug use and other deviant behaviours in close psychosocial contexts, and family discipline) to be influenced.

Practical implications

The main implication for prevention is that a comprehensive approach is more effective than a partial one. It also advocates reducing risk factors and increasing protection factors to encourage lifestyle change, especially in adolescents living in adverse social environments. In this respect, the theory considers that socially-organised poverty, inequality and discrimination favour risk behaviours and are essential to maintain a part of the adolescent population "at risk". Consequently, an underlying principle would be to promote contextual changes and not to burden the individual with full responsibility.



Jessor  R & Jessor SL. (1977). Problem behavior and psychosocial development. New York: Academic Press.

Jessor R. (1992). Risk behaviour in adolescence: A psychosocial framework for understanding and action. In Rogers DE and Ginzburg E (eds.). Adolescents at risk: Medical and social perspectives. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 19–34.