Abstract: Exploring the Components of Impulsivity and Their Relationship to Adolescent Drug Use and Sexual Risk Behaviors (Society for Prevention Research 24th Annual Meeting)

274 Exploring the Components of Impulsivity and Their Relationship to Adolescent Drug Use and Sexual Risk Behaviors

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Katherine Chrisinger, BA, Doctoral Student, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Atika Khurana, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Daniel Romer, PhD, Director, Adolescent Communication Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Laura Betancourt, PhD, Research Scientist, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Hallam Hurt, MD, Professor, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Introduction: Adolescence is a life stage when maladaptive risk behaviors first emerge. A well-recognized and robust predictor of adolescent risk-taking is the multifaceted construct of impulsivity (Whiteside & Lynam, 2001). Despite the fact that impulsivity can include different interrelated yet distinct dimensions like sensation seeking (SS), acting-without-thinking (AWT), and inability to delay gratification (IDG), most studies examining adolescent risk-taking have focused on a single index of impulsivity. Our goal was to focus on the distinct impulsivity dimensions (SS, AWT, IDG) and examine their similarities and differences, both in terms of relative stability/change over the course of adolescence and relationships with different risk behaviors (alcohol and other common drug use, early sexual initiation, unprotected sexual involvement).

Methods: We analyzed five waves of annual assessments from a community cohort of 387 adolescents (52% female; baseline age = 10-12 years) recruited from the Philadelphia area using robust linear regression analyses. Impulsivity dimensions of SS and AWT were assessed using self-report questionnaires, while IDG was assessed using a hypothetical monetary choice procedure (Green et al., 1994). Self-reports of adolescent risk behaviors were collected using computerized self-assisted interviewing techniques.  

Results: Bivariate associations revealed both stability and variability in these personality dimensions, suggesting these are not fixed traits. Some dimensions of impulsivity were more strongly associated (i.e., SS and AWT, r = 0.12-0.44, p < 0.05) during adolescence while others were not significantly linked (e.g., SS and IDG, r = 0.02-0.09, p = n.s.), suggesting that although inter-related these dimensions have unique characteristics. This was further validated by the fact that these dimensions were differentially related to risk behaviors: SS was not as strongly predictive of sexual risk-taking (β = 0.01 – 0.10, p = n.s.), as compared to AWT (β = 0.18-0.24, p <0.05) and IDG (β = 0.12-0.15, p <0.05). Alcohol and other drug use was more strongly related to AWT (β = 0.19-0.28, p <0.05) and SS (β = 0.20-0.28, p <0.05), as compared to IDG (β = 0.07-0.08, p <0.08).

Conclusions: Overall the findings highlight the importance of studying these dimensions individually as predictors of adolescent risk-taking, and understanding their sources of variability (developmental and individual) to better inform preventive interventions. In order to better understand these intra- and inter-individual variations in impulsivity, we are currently modeling heterogeneous latent trajectories of each dimension from early adolescence to early adulthood. These findings will be presented at the conference if selected.