Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology




Research on female inmates has shown that this population engages in a variety of risky behaviors, like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and risky sexual activities, and that these problem behaviors seem to share high positive intercorrelations. Problem Behavior Theory (PBT) explains these positive intercorrelations by viewing problem behaviors like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and risky sexual activities as a single factor, or a single behavioral syndrome. Although the presence of this syndrome has been demonstrated in a variety of ethnically diverse adolescent samples, little work has been done to evaluate its presence in a sample of adults. Adult female inmantes (N = 234) from a New England prison facility answered questions about their alcohol use, drug use, and sexual activities prior to entering prison. There were no significant differences noted across ethnicity in number or type of risky behaviors. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was used to examine the dimensions of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and risky sexual practices. Once established factors were found, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to test for the existence of a single "problem behavioral syndrome". CF A revealed that although each type of problem behavior offers some unique contribution, a single behavioral syndrome can account for their intercorrelations. Because problem behavior syndrome was found in the prison sample, future steps can be taken to evaluate which personality, social, and other behavioral constructs are related to this syndrome, and appropriate interventions can then be designed.



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